Family, friends in Merced County react to fatal DUI crash that killed 3

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comNovember 25, 2013 

Family and friends remember three Merced County men killed in a solo vehicle crash Saturday. Two of the victims were twin brothers who served in Afghanistan.

MERCED SUN-STAR

Last Thanksgiving, Lorraine Anderson was talking about plans to spend the holiday with her son, a combat soldier who had just returned from Afghanistan. This year, the 57-year-old spent the day making funeral arrangements for him and his twin brother.

Anderson’s sons, Robert and Michael, were two of three people killed in a solo vehicle crash in the Sacramento area on Saturday, just three days shy of their 24th birthdays today.

The crash was reported about 2:30 a.m. on southbound Highway 99, south of Calvine Road. Merced resident Sean Leon-Guerrero, 24, was driving a 2010 Acura, and the Anderson brothers were passengers.

According to the CHP, Leon-Guerrero lost control of the car. It drifted to the right of the highway and onto the dirt shoulder, then struck a chain-link fence and a metal pole. CHP reported the vehicle was traveling between 80 and 100 mph, and they suspect that alcohol was a factor.

All three men were pronounced dead at the scene.

Lorraine Anderson said she had awoken from a dream and heard a voice Saturday morning saying, “Michael is dead.” Ten minutes later she got a knock on the door from the Merced County sheriff’s deputies informing her about the accident.

“At first I thought maybe it was God’s voice someway,” Anderson said. “I don’t know much about the spirit world, but I have actually wondered if that was Robert – the spirit of Robert telling Mom that Michael was dead and not knowing of his own fate yet.”

Robert, an Elk Grove resident, was a sergeant in the Marines who served two tours in Afghanistan. Michael, an Atwater resident, was a specialist in the Army National Guard who returned from Afghanistan in July.

Anderson was mourning her sons Monday afternoon when she received a visit from a team of Army soldiers. The men had traveled to her Merced home to show support, get information about the family’s wishes for funeral arrangements and facilitate life insurance payouts.

The brothers will receive full military honors at their funerals, said Army Sgt. Jonathan O’Gaffrey.

While making decisions about her sons’ final resting place, Anderson also took a moment Monday to pray for the family of the other victim, Leon-Guerrero. He was a childhood friend of the Anderson brothers. “I recognize that I’m not the only one that’s mourning and I can be an encouragement to others,” Anderson said.

Sean’s mother, Patricia Leon-Guerrero, said Monday she’s also praying for Anderson’s family. She wished the men had made a better choice, but said her son shouldn’t be blamed because he was driving.

“I know they’ll put the blame on him because he was behind the wheel,” Leon-Guerrero, 44, said Monday. “But he is not this drunk or alcoholic people are putting him out to be. I don’t know why they made the decisions they did.”

Amanda Fleitz, Leon-Guerrero’s fiancée, echoed that sentiment.

“I feel that there’s a little bit of finger-pointing,” Fleitz said. “I’ve seen some comments that people have put on Facebook. He’s not somebody that went out and did anything intentionally. They’re all adults. They all made a choice and it was a bad one.”

“We’ll never know why they handed him keys to a car that was not his or why the boys decided to get in a car together if they were drinking,” Leon-Guerrero said, “but they went together and God took them together.”

Leon-Guerrero said she hasn’t spoken to Anderson about the crash but would welcome the opportunity to mourn for their sons together. “I want to hug her and say I’m sorry we lost our kids,” she said. “I’ve been praying for her and asking God for strength.”

Anderson has also been praying, she said, and believes losing her sons might have been a matter of fate. “I feel that God has his reason and it’s not really for me to know,” she said. “But I do know that the twins are not finished touching people’s lives yet.”

As the mothers turn to their faith for solace and comfort, friends and family remember the lives of three young men cut tragically short.

“He was funny and outgoing. You could go to him for anything,” said Kyle Climer, Michael Anderson’s roommate for nine months in Afghanistan. “We’re not going to be able to replace that guy. He is a brother, he still is, and he’ll always be a part of our lives.”

“He was always there for me; he was my best friend,” Fleitz said. “He loved me so much and always tried to make me laugh. I would just look at him sometimes and be so proud of him.”

Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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