A Santa Rosa family was left shattered Sunday by a car crash in northeast Mexico that killed a 46-year-old woman and left her daughter and niece in critical condition.
As word of the accident filtered back to Sonoma County, grief spread fast.
“It feels like the neighborhood is empty without her,” said Alma Chavez, a neighbor who described a trail of visitors coming to pay respects at the family's home, where Rosa María Torres Garcia ran a popular day care called Happy Faces.
A Mexican online newspaper, La Policíaca, reported the family was traveling in Coahuila state when Torres Garcia's husband, Francisco Garcia, fell asleep at the wheel of their 2001 Chevrolet Tahoe.
The SUV, carrying seven people, rolled over on a highway, killing Torres Garcia instantly and leaving the couple's daughter, Cristina Garcia Torres, 16, and a niece, Alexis Vargas, 17, critically injured.
“Students are getting organized to help support them, and we're talking about how we can help the families,” said Brien Farrell, a government and economics teacher at Elsie Allen High School, where both girls are students.
La Policíaca said Garcia, 46, had been driving for about 18 hours without rest as the family headed south to his native state of Guanajuato, as they do every year, to spend the holidays with his and his wife's families.
Garcia, a construction worker, and his daughter's 7-month-old daughter, Maya, were less seriouly injured and have been discharged from hospital. Vargas's brother, Steven, was unhurt.
Marky Phanchanh, who has been close to the family since he was in kindergarten at Bellevue Elementary School, learned what happened from friends.
“I thought they were lying when they called me, then I just started crying,” said Phanchanh, a junior at Elsie Allen High.
He said Torres Garcia planned to buy a wedding dress because she and her husband were going to renew their vows.