The Turlock Police Department sought to bring a little bit of holiday cheer to a Turlock family rocked by a tragic loss earlier this year with donations and a special visit from the department’s Blue Santa.
Through donations from the men and women of the department and from some of the funds raised through the ice bucket challenge Turlock Police Chief Rob Jackson completed in September, the department was able to give $1,000 to the surviving members of the Flores family after they lost three members in a hit and run collision in September.
“We are so sorry and hope this helps through the holidays,” Jackson said to the family. “It is a terrible loss and we feel it as well.”
On Sept. 6, Elena Flores, 47, and her daughter-in-law 20-year-old Julia Flores were out for an early evening stroll with Julia’s 4-year-old son Brian Flores and 2-year-old daughter Emily Flores. The family was just a block from their home when a speeding car came around the corner at Rockwood Avenue and Boxwood Way.
The driver of the vehicle lost control of the car and 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 car smashed through two bedrooms of the home before coming to a rest.
Elena and Julia Flores both died at the scene, while Brian Flores died at a nearby hospital. The vehicle narrowly missed Emily Flores.
The driver of the vehicle, later identified as Luis Miguel Cruz, 28, of Turlock, tried to flee the scene jumping over a fence, but a group of neighbors chased after him and kept him detained until police arrived. Cruz was arrested and is awaiting trial on charges of murder and vehicular manslaughter.
The deaths of the three family members sparked an outpouring of sympathy from the community for the surviving family members, especially for Elena’s husband Clemente Flores and his son Jose Flores, the father of Brian and the husband to Julia. Contributions were sent in to help pay for funeral expenses and nightly vigils drew in large crowds wanting to express their condolences to the family. A memorial of photos, candles and mementos grew at the site of the collision and continues to inspire new additions months later.
In addition to the monetary donations, the department’s Blue Santa came for a visit and treats for the children of the Flores family.
The family also received a special gift from the Letters to Santa program. Letters to Santa is a program started by Modesto firefighter Justin Crone. It aims to deliver clothes and toys to Stanislaus County children in need. This year the program has accumulated donations for more than 450 children.
“I spoke to Justin about your tremendous loss,” Turlock Police Sgt. Neil Cervenka told the family. “He was moved to have the charity help in any way they could.”
Through the Letters to Santa program, the family was given a turkey dinner complete with all the fixings, a bag of goodies for the children, including clothes, jackets and toys, and a special pink sit and scoot play motorcycle.