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Mother of crash victims says community support will ‘help us bear with this’

Updated February 2, 2022 - 8:43 am

The North Las Vegas mother who lost seven relatives in Saturday’s “mass casualty” crash said she does not know if she will be able to withstand saying her final goodbyes to all her children and a brother later this month.

But members of the community standing by her family’s side would help, Erlinda Zacarias said Monday, noting that the viewing scheduled for Feb. 21 was open to the public.

“I don’t know how I’ll live that moment,” she said in Spanish. “But I know that having all of those people by our side would help us bear with this.”

Zacarias and husband Jesus Mejia-Santana lost six children and her brother Saturday afternoon when their Toyota Sienna was struck by a car that blew through a red light going more than 100 mph at Cheyenne Avenue and Commerce Street, according to the North Las Vegas Police Department.

The victims were Fernando Yeshua Mejia, 5; Adrian Zacarias, 10; Lluvia Daylenn Zacarias, 13; Bryan Axel Zacarias, 15; Gabriel Mejia-Barrera, 23; David Mejia-Barrera, 25; and Jose Zacarias-Caldera, 35.

The motorist police said caused the crash, Gary Dean Robinson, 59, and his passenger, Tanaga Ravel Miller, 46, also died.

Four others were reported injured in the six-vehicle wreck.

Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Joe Lombardo on Tuesday called the wreck “one of the most extensive tragedies that I can remember.”

“Can you feel any more tragedy for that family and the individuals that lost their lives?” he said.

Those in the minivan were on their way to meet Zacarias and Mejia-Santana for lunch when the 3:15 p.m. crash occurred.

“We’re never going to see them again, or watch them grow, or have grandchildren,” Zacarias lamented Monday. “Our world is over.”

A GoFundMe campaign she launched Sunday to help cover funeral costs had raised more than $270,000 from more than 6,100 donors as of Tuesday afternoon.

The Rev. Vance “Stretch” Sanders, a community organizer, said he is friends with Tiffani May, who survived the crash. He set up a candlelight and prayer vigil for Sunday in honor of everyone involved in the crash. The vigil starts at 4:30 p.m. at the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. statue, 1344 W. Carey Ave. in North Las Vegas.

May was rushed to University Medical Center with serious injuries, police and her family have said. Her own fundraiser to help cover medical costs had raised more than $10,000 as of Tuesday.

On Tuesday, about 72 hours after the deadliest crash in recent Nevada history, a steady stream of people continued to visit a memorial at the crash site.

A fence surrounding a vacant lot had not been repaired since cars involved in the crash broke through Saturday.

Underneath a wooden sign that advertises an upcoming commercial and residential complex, the number of candles, stuffed animals, balloons and flowers continued to grow.

“We love you,” someone wrote on a blue balloon. “One day we’ll see you.”

North Las Vegas resident Joseph Dollopac stopped to pay respects.

“I just hope that they can recover from it,” he said. “No parent should actually feel this type of pain and agony.”

Diane Clawson said she felt for Zacarias and Mejia-Santana.

“It’s so unnecessary,” she said about the crash. “It’s just heartbreaking. Heartbreaking.”

Late Tuesday, small groups of people came to the memorial, some with items they placed there and others who stood taking in the scene.

Kevin Gamboa, 15, said he’s known Bryan Axel Zacarias since sixth grade when they met at Bridger Middle School. Gamboa was at the memorial with his dad, Hector. They placed flowers, a stuffed bear and lit two candles, which they added to the memorial.

Kevin Gamboa said the flowers and bear were there to honor Bryan’s siblings. He said he wanted to come and see what other people left and to show his appreciation for Bryan.

“He was a really good friend,” Kevin Gamboa said.

Ruth Gomez, 27, of North Las Vegas, held the hands of her daughters Alayna, 2, and Madeline, 5.

Gomez crouched down among the memorial and picked up candles that had been blown over by the wind.

Gomez saw the aftermath of the crash on Saturday, and later learned about the extent of the wreck. She said she started crying when she learned of the loss of life.

“They didn’t deserve that,” Gomez said.

She said lives nearby and sees many drivers speeding and has seen people run the red light at the intersection.

“It’s always scary,” Gomez said.

She said she’s not one who usually visits to memorials but that this crash was an exception.

“This one really touched me,” Gomez said.

Jennifer Trujillo came to the memorial with her husband, Oscar, sixth grade daughter, Persia, and their dog.

Persia attends nearby Sedway Middle School. Trujillo said she and other parents were concerned about the speed of vehicles traveling so close to the school.

“At times they have to walk by themselves so this is concerning,” Trujillo said. “We worry about our kids crossing the street.”

She said she hopes something is done to enforce safer driving in the area.

The viewing and burial for the children and Zacarias’ brother, Jose Zacarias-Caldera, were scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 21 at Palm Northwest, 6701 N. Jones Blvd. The burial will follow at 1:30 p.m.

The remains of Mejia-Santana’s older sons, Gabriel and David Mejia-Barrera, will be repatriated to Mexico, the family said.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter. Kevin Cannon contributed to this story.

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