Family, friends, neighbors gather to raise funeral money for Turlock teen in crash

Thaily Gutierrez and her friend on Saturday were on their way to a concert at John Thurman Field in west Modesto. They were only about a block away from Thaily’s home when a crash ended her life.

A sport utility vehicle crashed into the passenger side of an Acura. Thaily, 17, a Turlock High School senior, was the passenger in that car. She was pinned inside the Acura before firefighters freed her. She was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where she later died.

“I still don’t understand why this happened,” said Angel Gutierrez, Thaily’s father. “It’s a pain so great ... you wouldn’t know how it feels until you actually go through it yourself.”

The 17-year-old driver of the vehicle, who police have not identified, was seriously injured in the crash. Juan Vasquez, Thaily’s cousin, said family members of the girl told him her condition seemed to be improving.

Thaily’s parents, grieving over the loss of their eldest daughter, were home Tuesday with no information about the investigation into the crash. They also don’t know how much they’ll have to spend on funeral expenses for Thaily.

But they were extremely grateful for family, friends, neighbors and even some strangers who have stopped by to offer condolences and donations to help the family. Some neighbors and friends have organized a fundraiser in the family’s front yard over the past two days.

On Tuesday afternoon, they were selling meals with fried chicken, enchiladas and potatoes. Later in the evening, other families were expected to arrive to make and sell tacos. These families want to help Thaily’s parents raise enough money for her funeral.

“My daughter was in the same class with (Thaily). We all heard about what happened, and we showed up,” said Angel Landin. “Yesterday, a bunch of her friends were here selling pozole.”

Thaily’s father said he and his wife didn’t call anyone or ask for help. They all just started arriving offering to help. Some of them, he doesn’t know that well.

“And look at what they’re doing for us,” Thaily’s father said in Spanish. “There’s a lot of good people out here.”

The deadly crash was reported shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday at the intersection of Angelus Street and West Avenue South. Turlock police officials have said the Acura with the two teen girls was headed west on Angelus Street.

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A memorial for Thaily Gutierrez is pictured at Angelus street and West avenue on Tuesday October 15, 2019 in Turlock, Calif. Gutierrez, a high school teen died in a car accident this past Saturday at the intersection. Joan Barnett Lee jlee@modbee.com

The car had stopped at a two-way stop sign at the intersection with West Avenue South. An 18-year-old man was driving the SUV south on West Avenue, which did not have a stop sign at that intersection. The SUV entered the intersection and crashed into the car.

Investigators do not believe drugs or alcohol were a factor in the crash. But police officials said speed appears to be factor. They said the SUV driver did not require medical treatment and remained at the crash site and cooperated with the investigation. The Turlock Police Department did not release the name of the SUV driver, or the names of the girls.

Passersby pulled the Acura driver from the wrecked car and performed CPR, which helped her regain consciousness at the scene, according to police. Thaily was pinned inside the car before firefighters freed her.

Thaily and her friend had just left her house on Angelus Street. Her parents were headed to the same Modesto Fest concert in Modesto, and they left the house about five minutes after their daughter had left.

“We got there just after it happened,” said Maribel Solis, Thaily’s mother. “She was still in the car.”

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Mother and father of Thaily Gutierrez- Angel Gutierrez and Maribel Solis are pictured on Tuesday October 15, 2019 at their family home in Turlock, Calif. during a fundraiser. Their daughter, a Turlock high school teen died in a car accident this past Saturday. Joan Barnett Lee jlee@modbee.com

She described her daughter as a humble and hardworking person who had hopes of going to nursing school. Thaily’s mother said her daughter had already submitted applications to attend Modesto Junior College or Merced College once she finished high school.

Thaily had two little sisters, ages 11 and 7. Her parents said Thaily earned good grades, and they never heard complaints from teachers or other school officials. Thaily was working part-time at the KFC restaurant on West Monte Vista Avenue in Turlock. She wanted to save enough money to buy herself a Dodger Charger. Her father tried to convince her that he could save money to buy her that car.

“But she wanted to do that on her own,” Thaily’s mother said in Spanish. “She was really sincere, and very respectful to everyone.

Thaily knew how to drive, but her parents would drive her to school and work. Thaily didn’t have a driver’s license yet, so her parents wouldn’t let her drive on her own.

Thaily’s friends are gathering at a tire shop on Lander Avenue and High Street in Turlock Saturday for a car wash to raise money for funeral expenses. They’re also gathering to raise money on Sunday for a “Car Meet” at Summerfaire Park along North Soderquist Road in Turlock.

Isaac Mendez, Thaily’s boyfriend, brought her parents poster boards for the car wash. He said he was still struggling with the loss of his girlfriend.

“She was beautiful, smart. She was always there for me,” he said. “She was a blessing.”

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Rosalio Ahumada writes news stories about criminal court cases in Stanislaus County for The Modesto Bee, issues related to immigration and immigrant communities and breaking news related to crime and public safety. From time to time, he covers the Modesto City Council meetings. He has worked as a news reporter in the Northern San Joaquin Valley since 2004.