MODESTO -- Dozens of relatives and friends gathered Tuesday to mourn at the west Modesto home of three men killed when a big rig slammed into the back of the car in which they were riding.
All of the men were related in some way through marriage and came from the same small town in Michoacán, Mexico. One was a father of five and the other two were about to become first-time fathers.
Jose Jaime Botello-Herrera, 21, Erasmo Tello Jaimes, 49, and Ignacio Causor Serrato, 38, were three of four passengers in the back seat of a Cadillac that was rear-ended by a big rig traveling about 55 mph when their car slowed because of a flat tire on Highway 99 on Monday morning.
The three men were from Buenos Aires, Michoacán, a town of 1,300 people. They were here working as farm laborers to earn money to send home to family there.
Tello Jaimes was the father of four daughters and one son. He had been living with his son and two of his daughters in Washington but had moved to the Modesto area in January for work.
Speaking through a Spanish interpreter, Tello Jaimes' daughter Adriana Tello said he was a joyous, friendly person and a family man. He worked hard and had to move often to find work to provide for his family, she said.
Tello Jaimes and Botello-Herrera were great cooks who prepared most of the meals for themselves and the other migrant workers with whom they lived, family members said.
Botello-Herrera was one of 10 children five boys and five girls. He was to become a father next month, when his wife is due to give birth to their son.
His sister also is pregnant, expecting twins in Mexico. Serrato is the father.
Rosio Torres, a family friend and niece of the Cadillac driver, helped facilitate communication with the coroner's office and the Mexican consulate Tuesday. She said they are trying to make arrangements to have the men's bodies returned home to Mexico.
Torres' uncle remains hospitalized with multiple broken bones, but the two other men who were passengers in the car have been released.
Torres said relatives of the dead are leaning on one another for support and are in shock over the tragedy.
"It's easiest for them not to talk about them right now," she said.
Vida en el Valle newspaper Managing Editor Olivia Ruiz contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.