A family out for an evening stroll around their Turlock neighborhood was struck by a suspected drunken driver who lost control of his speeding vehicle, resulting in three fatalities Saturday night.
The collision claimed the life of 4-year-old Brian Flores, his mother, 20-year-old Julia Argandar-Cruz, and his grandmother, 47-year-old Maria Elena Flores-Corrales. Argandar-Cruz’s 2-year-old daughter was walking with her family, but escaped the incident unharmed.
The driver, identified by the Turlock Police Department as Luis Miguel Cruz, 28, of Turlock, fled the scene of the collision after his car crashed into a house, but a group of citizens detained him and he is now facing criminal charges.
The family was out for a walk at 7:44 p.m. Saturday in the area of Rockwood Avenue and Boxwood Way when the speeding car came their way.
Cruz was reportedly driving the BMW at a high rate of speed westbound on Rockwood when he lost control, according to the Turlock Police Department. The BMW swerved up onto the sidewalk, striking the two women and the young boy. The vehicle then struck a utility box and a stop sign. The car crashed into a birch tree which sent it careening into a home at the corner of Boxwood and Rockwood. The BMW smashed through two bedrooms of the home before coming to a rest. No one was injured at the home, said Turlock Police Lt. Ron Reid.
The force of the impact threw the victims into the air at least 50 feet, according to some of the witnesses’ statements.
The two women were pronounced dead at the scene. Emergency responders attempted CPR on the 4-year-old who was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died from his injuries. Other officers were attempting to obtain the 2-year-old’s name and comfort her when a family member arrived at the scene.
As soon as the BMW came to a stop two men ran from the car, according to the police department.
Several citizens chased after one man they saw getting out of the driver’s side. The citizens were able to catch the suspect when he tripped over a fence on Boxwood and hold him until police arrived, said Eric Diaz, a nearby resident who witnessed the scene.
“I was in my room watching TV like I always do when I heard a loud noise. I came outside and saw a guy trying to jump over the fence and a group of guys came and jumped on top of him,” Diaz said.
The second man seen running from the car ran to a home in the 400 block of E. Linwood Avenue. The suspect was ordered by the police to come out of the home but he refused. A search warrant for the home was obtained and served around 2 a.m. Sunday. Three people were detained at the scene, including the man seen running from the car. No charges were filed at the time and the three were released. The investigation is ongoing and an additional arrest is possible.
Cruz was initially released after being questioned by investigators, pending additional information, said Reid. He was taken into custody again on Monday at the Turlock Police Department and booked into the Stanislaus County Jail on charges of felony hit and run, felony driving while under the influence of alcohol, and three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter. Cruz is being held on a $100,000 bail and is scheduled for an arraignment today.
According to Stanislaus County Superior Court records, Cruz had four previous convictions for driving without a license, including a misdemeanor charge.
The news that three family members had died in one collision sent shockwaves through the neighborhood.
“A lot of families go walking around here with their kids and most kids walk to school and walk back,” said Erika Vilchiz. “I don’t know how we’ll feel safe again.”
The safety concerns were echoed by many of the residents, some of whom stated speeding cars were nothing new in the neighborhood.
“There are lots of cars speeding along here,” said Maria Freitas, who resides on Linwood Avenue. “The weekend is the worst. People can’t even go for a walk and be safe. We need more patrols in this area.”
The neighborhood and the community at large have also shown an outpouring of sympathy for the bereaved family members. A memorial of flowers, candles and toys marks the spot of the crash and donations are being collected for the family to help pay for the funeral expenses.
Memorial contributions can be made to Westside Ministries at 952 Columbia Ave., Turlock, Ca. 95380.
Nightly Rosaries are being held at the crash site and then proceeding to the family’s home down the block. A visitation at Allen Mortuary at 247 N. Broadway in Turlock is set for noon Sept. 16. A Rosary will follow at 7 p.m. Mass will be held at 2 p.m. Sept. 17 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Burial will take place in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.
The police department is asking anyone who witnessed the crash to contact Sgt. Neil Cervenka at 668-5550 ext. 6681.