Seventy-three-year old Jose Morales-Chavez fulfilled a lifelong dream to see the Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday. The trip to San Francisco culminated a weeklong stay at a relative’s home in Salida.
But after leaving with five of his family members and driving south on Highway 99 toward home, the family’s vehicle was struck head-on by a suspected drunk driver traveling 80 mph in the wrong direction near Livingston, officials say.
Morales-Chavez died at Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock. His wife, 65-year-old Juana Morales, died at the scene along with their daughter-in-law, Martha Leticia De Los Santos Perez, 34.
One of Morales-Chavez and Morales’ sons, who asked not to be identified, spoke with The Bee on Tuesday from his brother’s bedside at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto. He said his brother, Guillermo Morales-Girabaldi, who was the driver of the GMC Sierra the family was riding in, suffered a broken leg but was improving.
His nieces, Perez and Morales-Girabaldi’s daughters, were also in the wreck.
Destiny Morales, 7, has a broken right femur and is recovering with the support of family members at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
Her sister, 5-year-old Kimberly Morales, suffered minor injuries and was released from the hospital the day of the collision.
Toxicology results are pending on the wrong-way driver, 40-year-old Antonio Garcia Velasquez, who died after being taken to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. Velasquez drove north on a southbound off ramp near Livingston about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, moved into the fast lane, and immediately crashed head-on with the family's vehicle.
The California Highway Patrol initially said Velasquez was from Modesto, but Stanislaus County Deputy-Coroner Tom Killian said Tuesday that the man was from Fresno.
The family member of the three killed said he and his relatives are mourning the loss of “good, honest people.”
He said his parents, Morales-Chavez and Morales, were visiting from Mexico for the first time in three years. They had been in the United States for a month, staying mostly with family in the San Fernando Valley, but had spent a week in Salida, where Perez’s parents live.
They were scheduled to return to Morales-Girabaldi and Perez’s home in Panorama City before the crash happened.
Referring to his parents, the family member said, “They have been together 47 years and they are going to be together in heaven now.”
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at email@example.com or (209)578-2366.