The crash that killed a teenager at Modesto Reservoir on Sunday remains under investigation.
However, the driver of the boat that collided with the Jet Ski carrying two people said he feels awful for the family, and refuted claims he made racist comments beforehand and caused the accident.
Efren David Valencia, 16, of Oakland was killed and his brother, Daniel Valencia, 28, suffered major injuries when the Jet Ski they were riding collided with the boat driven by Vasco Nunes, a 47-year-old Merced County resident.
Daniel Valencia suffered a broken pelvis and other injures and remains at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, awaiting surgery, a family member said.
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The Valencias were at Modesto Reservoir for their annual Memorial Day camping trip, according to Marta Valencia, David and Efren’s sister-in-law. She said about 50 people took part in the trip.
Some members of the Valencia family claimed they believe the incident was intentional and racially motivated, something both Nunes and authorities deny.
“There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support that allegation and no, this was not a hate crime nor is it being investigated as a hate crime,” Sheriff Adam Christianson said in an email. “Vessel accidents are typically caused by inattention and inexperience.”
Nunes, who spoke with The Bee on Wednesday, said he got to the reservoir with his girlfriend, Maria Zepeda, 49, and other family members at about 11:15 a.m. He said he did talk to two Latino men who were unloading a Jet Ski at the boat ramp. He said he asked them about their truck, and they complimented Nunes on his boat, giving him a thumbs up before he headed into the reservoir.
Nunes said was planning to warm up the boat, which he said hadn’t been in the water for nearly a year, before heading back to shore to help set up a picnic lunch with family members.
He said he drove the boat around before stopping near Vivian Cove. He said he looked around, and didn’t see anyone, then got going back to the shore. About 10 to 20 seconds later, he saw a flash.
“All of a sudden, I’m drinking water, I’m in the water and freaking out,” he said.
He said he was dazed, and didn’t know what had occurred. He said he saw his boat, and saw another person in the water. Another Jet Skier helped him to his boat.
Nunes was eventually taken to a Modesto hospital to be treated for blunt force trauma to his chest area and several bruises and cuts to his leg.
He said he feels awful for the Valencias. “I know they’re hurting,” he said. “I’m heartbroken by the whole situation.
“But I did not cause that accident. Why would I go hurt somebody else, hurt myself? I would never hurt anybody.”
Funeral services for Efren Valencia will be held in Oakland, where his family is from, Marta Valencia said. The Valencias have set up an online fundraiser for funeral expenses.