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‘Our world has ended’: Parents lost entire family in Nevada’s deadliest crash

Updated February 1, 2022 - 9:17 pm

The 15-year-old victim aspired to be a paramedic. His little sister spoke about wanting to grow up to assist hospice care patients. Their younger brother enjoyed cooking and drawing for their mom, while the 5-year-old “baby” of the house loved building Legos and practicing karate.

The children were among the seven victims of a single household killed when a speeding car ran a red light and plowed into their minivan Saturday afternoon in an intersection not far from their North Las Vegas home. Their uncle and two adult stepbrothers also died.

The group had just left Craig Ranch Regional Park and were heading to meet their parents at a buffet when tragedy struck, Erlinda Zacarias said Monday from their home.

“That’s why they were together,” she said in Spanish. “And they died together.”

Zacarias lost four biological children, her younger brother and two adult stepsons.

“Because of negligence, innocent people died who deserved to live, who had a life full of hopes and dreams, and goals,” she said.

The victims in the family’s Toyota Sienna 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 family regularly went out to eat on Saturdays. Their last photo together shows the victims smiling around a restaurant table a week before their death.

The six-vehicle crash that left nine dead — the deadliest on a Nevada roadway since officials began keeping track in 1991 — took “everything” from Erlinda Zacarias and her husband, Jesus Mejia-Santana, who lost four biological children.

“He and I have to live for each other, because we have nothing to live for,” Zacarias said. “Our world has ended.”

Mejia-Santana described his loved ones as a model family, even “enviable.”

Ongoing investigation

On Monday evening, a series of mourners arrived at the family’s front door, carrying food, flowers and strawberries. They shared hugs and tears.

The couple said they had spent the day making funeral arrangements.

Probes into the crash were ongoing and investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in the valley on Monday.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Gary Dean Robinson, 59, who was in the Dodge Challenger that ran the red light at more than 100 mph, had been cited for speeding on valley roads at least five times in the past 15 months.

He and his passenger, who was identified as Tanaga Ravel Miller, 46, also died.

A transportation safety agency representative accompanied a North Las Vegas official to the victims’ home on Monday evening, where they explained the investigative procedures and offered counseling.

Zacarias said the federal official spoke about possible changes coming to the intersection of Cheyenne Avenue and Commerce Street where the fatal wreck occurred.

Inseparable

Erlinda Zacarias and Jesus Mejia-Santana got together 13 years ago. She was pregnant with Lluvia and Bryan was a toddler. He said he loved them as his own kin.

About a year later, they moved into the home in North Las Vegas. The births of Adrian and Fernando followed.

Their mother’s brother and their father’s two sons from a previous relationship lived with them.

And the seven would spend a lot of time together, in the kitchen and living room, cooking, watching movies, and recording videos for each other to share on social media, or simply sitting on the couch.

Fernando, the 5-year-old, was pampered, and his siblings and uncle were always “excited” to take care of him, his mother said.

He was a first grader at Lincoln Elementary School, and this was his first year attending class in person because of the pandemic. His teacher would tell his mother how adorable and smart he was, and how he would like to help out the instructor in class.

“He looked up to his siblings,” his mother said.

Adrian, a fifth grader at Lincoln, was very kind and affectionate and liked conversation. He would boast to his teachers and “the whole world” about “his beautiful family.”

The children cooked together, but Adrian liked to experiment further. When their mother came home from work tired, he would offer her a homemade meal, a massage, or a cup of hot tea. He took karate classes with Fernando.

Lluvia, whose name translates to Rain, was a 13-year-old adult, the “boss” of the house. She made sure her siblings were ready in time for school and kept track of what bills had to be paid. She said she wanted a career in the medical field, assisting elderly and hospice care patients.

She attended Jim Bridger Middle School.

Bryan was popular on social media and at Rancho High School, where he was a sophomore. He was eager about adulthood because he wanted to be a paramedic. His mother described him as a straight-A student, who was very involved in school activities.

Mejia-Santana‘s adult children were “muy buenos hombres, mis hijos,” he said. “Good men, my sons.”

David Mejia-Barrera was a hard worker who liked to play with his younger siblings, his father said. Never a troublemaker.

Gabriel Mejia-Barrera was more reserved, but liked collecting toys and tinkering with them. He would buy old diecast cars and make them run by using batteries and tiny motors.

Zacarias’ brother, Jose, was the exemplary family member who drove the children to and from work, took the boys to karate, settled their sibling arguments and even washed their clothes.

“He was a very good brother and a great uncle who always took care of them,” she said.

Erlinda Zacarias organized a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for funerals and burials. Nearly 5,000 donors had given $220,000 as of Monday evening.

The four children and their uncle will be laid to rest in Las Vegas on Feb. 21, while Mejia-Santana’s adult sons will be repatriated to Mexico.

The burial plot in Las Vegas was set to cost $100,000, and the basic burials were estimated to cost about another $50,000, Zacarias said.

“That has been very surprising for us, and we’re very grateful,” Zacarias said. “We have no words, but thank you.”

Without the outpouring of support and their Christian faith, they would be lost, she said.

“At the end of the day, if God wants it this way, we accept what he has put in front of us,” Zacarias said.

The couple finds solace knowing that the victims were believers of God, and would often speak about an afterlife.

A living room wall in their home is adorned by framed photos of Bryan, Lluvia, Adrian and Fernando when they were little.

Each was photographed in outfits with angel wings.

“And now they’re angels,” Zacarias said.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.

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