JOHNSON VALLEY — An Air Force colonel from Texas who was hurt in a crash on Old Woman Springs Road May 16 died Sunday.
Col. Alexander Merz, 50, was deputy director of Special Programs with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. He would have worked on technical intelligence-collecting capabilities and clandestine technical operations, according to the undersecretary’s office.
A GoFundMe account set up for his family states he was in the area doing work for the undersecretary’s office in Palm Springs. A media representative from that office said she could not confirm or deny that.
Merz was driving a 2018 Nissan Versa northbound on Old Woman Springs Road near Olvine Road around 4:40 p.m. May 16. According to the California Highway Patrol, Twentynine Palms resident Anthony Wilson, 27, was driving a 2019 Ford F150 south and crossed a solid yellow line to pass slower traffic.
Wilson went into oncoming traffic and collided head-on with Merz’s car.
Firefighters needed the Jaws of Life to extract him Merz from his car. He was flown to Desert Regional Medical Center, where he died May 19.
Wilson was able to leave his vehicle without help and was driven to the Desert Regional Medical Center by ground ambulance.
CHP Officer Jason Kobaly said the investigation into the crash has not been completed.
“In the normal course of investigation, if there are any charges that are discovered, those will be looked into and if they are confirmed, we will work with the district attorney’s office to bring those forward,” Kobaly said.
According to an Air Force biography posted on GoFundMe by friends after his death, Merz deployed twice to the Former Republic of Yugoslavia, once to Operation Enduring Freedom and twice to the war in Iraq.
He commanded the 93rd Intelligence Squadron and from 2013 to 2015 was vice commander of the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, the Air Force wing that supports the National Security Agency and the Air Force with cryptologic intelligence.
He served as director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for Air Force Special Operations from June 2015 to June 2018.
Merz is survived by his wife, Tristan, and three children.
Merz was commissioned at University of Wyoming in December 1992. In his ensuing career, he worked at Air Force Special Operations Command, Pacific Air Forces and the Joint Analysis Center, a military intelligence analysis center in England run by the Defense Intelligence Agency. He attended the National War College in Washington, D.C.