Survivor Of Deadly Car Crash Speaks With KMPH; 3 Killed In Possible DUI Accident
VISALIA, Calif. (KMPH) —
The community of Tulare is mourning the loss of three young lives.
18-year-old Rey Maldonado, 22-year-old Victor Rivera, and 19-year-old Jennifer Avina were all killed in a car accident over the weekend.
The driver lost control and hit a tree on Highway 99, near Avenue 264 in Visalia.
The CHP says the driver may have been drinking before the crash.
Three other people survived, including 24-year-old Mario Santana, who stopped by the crash site after he was released from the hospital Monday afternoon.
"I guess, to be honest, I was one of the luckiest ones," said Santana.
He was in the backseat of the car, but was thrown out in the crash.
He has broken ribs, a fractured foot, and gashes on his face, but at least he's alive.
"If anything, everybody's got to pull together, you know, we have a second chance. Everybody will always be remembered," said Santana.
"Jennifer was nice sweet, always happy, brought joy to the room," said Monique Magana, one of the victims' sister.
Throughout the day, friends and family have been leaving flowers and candles, balloons and notes at the tree the car crashed into.
Rey Maldonado was behind the wheel. It could take another week before toxicology tests confirm if he was drunk.
"People judge, whether he was drinking, whether he was not drinking. Mistakes, everybody makes them, too bad they turned this way," said Jonathan Gonzalez, a relative of Maldonado.
"It was an accident...the people that is saying it was because he was drunk, it's not true," said Miriam Maldonado, the driver's mother.
Maldonado just graduated from Tulare Union High School last year and worked as a nurse's assistant.
Just thinking about the night of the crash, was overwhelming for Santana.
"It happened in slow motion, but it happened so quick," said Santana.
Two other teenage girls were in the backseat and are still in the hospital.
If toxicology tests confirm Maldonado was drunk, investigators say they will be looking into who supplied him with the alcohol, since he is underage.
Meanwhile, friends and family are organizing a fundraiser to help the families with funeral expenses.
A car wash will be held at the Latino Market in Tulare, starting at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday.
Donations can also be made to Sterling and Smith Funeral home in Tulare.