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5-year-old killed in Christmas Eve crash

Five-year-old Joshua Lopez of Merced died Christmas Eve in Fresno County after his family's motor home was hit broadside by a big rig on a foggy road.

The boy's father, Joshua Abraham Lopez Jr., 38, remained unconscious in critical but stable condition at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno on Wednesday, according to Rick Diaz, a close friend of the Lopez family.

Maria Jesse Lopez, 36, the boy's mother, was treated at Community Regional for lacerations to her right arm and was released Tuesday, Diaz said. The couple's 13-month-old daughter, Jessica Lopez, has a minor head injury and is being observed at Valley Children's Hospital in Madera County.

The driver of the 2004 Peterbilt, Manuel Garcia Cruz, 41, of Visalia, was not hurt, California Highway Patrol investigators said.

Diaz said the family was headed to Caruthers to spend the holiday with loved ones when the crash occurred. He said relatives of the Lopez family have been flying into the area from other states to offer their support.

"They have a strong, close-knit family, and that is what they are relying on to get through this," Diaz said.

He said the father has been unconscious since the crash and hasn't learn of his son's death.

"That little boy was his entire world, so this is going to be really tough for him," Diaz said.

Joshua Lopez Jr. is connected to a ventilator and has a broken arm, broken ribs and facial fractures. He is employed as an inmate systems officer at United States Penitentiary in Atwater, where he works receiving and releasing inmates, Diaz said.

Jesse Gonzalez, USP Atwater spokesman, said several of the prison's employees have visited Lopez in the hospital, as well as his family members. Gonzalez said Lopez has worked at the prison for nearly seven years, and described him as a "dedicated employee and family man. It's just so tragic because it happened on Christmas Eve," Gonzalez said. "We will give the family the support they need and will continue to do so."

The couple's 1975 Winnebago was traveling on a rural road south of Fresno about 9 p.m. Investigators believe Lopez Jr. had pulled the Winnebago to the right shoulder and was attempting to make a U-turn when the vehicle was struck by the truck.

CHP investigators said the truck was delivering feed to a farm. Dense fog and limited visibility may have contributed to the crash, investigators said.

Maria Lopez also has an 18-year-old son, Carlos Constantino of Stockton, who was not in the vehicle when the crash occurred.

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