Wife's crash near site of fatal wreck raises questions

The wife of an Oakdale man accused of causing a crash in December that left five men dead is in critical condition after her car smashed into a pole Wednesday just 200 feet from the site of her husband's wreck.

The couple's son, a toddler, was in a car seat in the back of the 1987 Toyota Camry, the California Highway Patrol reported. He suffered bruising and a swollen temple, according to his grandmother, Teri Christensen, but otherwise was unharmed.

Around 7:50 a.m., said CHP spokesman Tom Killian, Falisha Abreu was driving south on Valley Home Road about a mile north of Highway 120. She was driving 45 mph when, for unknown reasons, her Toyota drifted off the road, striking a telephone pole and two trees.

Abreu, 22, was flown in a helicopter to Memorial Medical Center, where she underwent surgery for several hours Wednesday morning, Killian said.

Her hips were broken in four places and her spleen was split into four pieces, said Christensen. Abreu also suffered a rip in her colon and hairline fractures in her back. She was in intensive care Wednesday evening, Christensen said.

Abreu's son, Ashton Christensen, who will be 2 next month, was taken by ambulance to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto for treatment, but was home with his grandmother Wednesday evening.

Teri Christensen did not know what caused her daughter-in-law's accident.

Abreu's husband, Justin Christensen, is scheduled to appear in Stanislaus County court Oct. 29 for a preliminary hearing in connection with the December 2006 accident in which five nursery workers died.

Christensen was charged in February with five counts of gross vehicular manslaughter. Authorities believe he was under the influence of heroin when the wreck happened. Each felony charge carries a sentence of four to 10 years in prison.

The morning of Dec. 7, Christensen was driving south in his Dodge Ram when he veered in front of the men's Mazda Protege in the northbound lane of Valley Home Road, authorities have said. His truck hit their car and landed on top of it. Both burst into flames.

Christensen suffered serious injuries, including two fractured legs, officials said. Passers-by tried to pull him from his truck but the fire forced them back. He crawled out of the truck and bystanders dragged him away.

The brother of one of the dead men identified the Protege's occupants as Alberto Padilla, Miguel Lopez, Daniel Lira, Victor Reyes, and Gerardo Quiroz. They originally were from Mexico City and Jalisco, Mexico. They were headed to work at a Valley Crest Tree Co. nursery northeast of Farming- ton when the crash occurred.

It remains unknown whether alcohol or drugs was a factor in Wednesday's crash, said Killian, which was strangely close to where the nursery workers died.

"The five crosses were 200 feet north of where Abreu's accident took place," he said.

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.