The Galt and Lodi communities were reeling this past weekend when it was learned a five members of a family were killed in a car accident in Mexico as they were returning home from a trip to visit family.
According to the Juarez Journal in Mexico, the families of brothers Sergio and Martin Garcia were traveling on the Chihuahua-Ciudad Juarez Highway — where speeds were about 60 miles an hour — at about 5:33 p.m. last Friday, when the truck they were riding in left the road.
The driver tried to get back on the road, but the vehicle rolled over, killing five members of the family, the Journal stated.
Martin Garcia and his wife Maribel died in the crash, as did their son Yair Garcia. Maria Del Rosario Garcia Lizarde and her son Emmanuel also died. Her husband Sergio was listed in critical condition, according to friends and family.
The Journal did not indicate who had been driving the truck.
Bob Feist, owner of Ropers Sports News Online, rented property off Ray and Peltier roads to the Sergio Garcia and his family about a decade ago, but kept in contact with them after they built a home in Galt.
Feist’s current tenant was a close friend of the Garcias and broke the news over the weekend.
“It’s very shocking,” he said. “The lived on the property 13 years. They were such a lovely family, very nice and hard working.”
Feist said news of the accident was even more tragic, given that Sergio’s and Maria’s eldest son, Sergio Jr. was killed in a drowning accident two years ago at the age of 20.
“That’s when they decided to have another child, Emmanuel,” Feist said. “I knew Martin and his family, too. They’d come over and visit a lot of times. They were a very close family.”
Yair Garcia was a junior at Galt High School, and principal Kellie Beck said the close-knit campus was heartbroken over hearing the news of his family’s tragedy.
She said Yair was a member of the varsity football team, which was practicing Tuesday afternoon. They planned to leave the lights on at the field in his memory after they were finished, she said.
Beck said Yair loved school and could not wait to return to campus last semester.
“We were actually able to have cohorts here, and he was the very first student on campus,” she said. “He ran in, saying ‘I’m here, I’m here,’ and he was so excited you could actually see the smile through his mask.”
Yair had also been a part of the school’s Future Farmers of America program, mentoring younger students, Beck said. People loved to be around him because he had a positive, infectious attitude.
Beck said learning of the family’s tragic accident was a gut-punch, given former Galt High soccer star Arath Chavez was killed in a Southern California motorcycle accident last week.
“It’s sad to lose a student like Yair,” she said. “He was so friendly and had so much life and potential. Just to hear about the whole family is unbelievable, and it makes you want to hold the people you love close. It’s not fair.”
Cheryl Reece was Yair’s freshman agriculture teacher, and said his presence and leadership would be missed when students return to campus.
“As a teacher, it was a kind of bittersweet situation with him as a student because he knew everyone and talked to everyone,” she said. “So you couldn’t really put him anywhere in a seating chart. He was so kind, not afraid to have conversations with anyone, and always ready to help anybody.”
Reece said Yair’s loss will be a strain on teachers and students alike, because he was the kind of person you never forget.
“This is where you hate your job because you love these kids so much,” she said. “And it makes it harder when we can’t be with our students in mourning. We need each other, but we can’t be around each other and help students on campus cope with this loss.”
A family member set up a GoFundMe to help raise funds for funeral expenses. As of Tuesday afternoon, she had raised $78,640 of a $200,000 goal. To donate, visit www.tinyurl.com/GarciaLodi.