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Family heartbroken after 5 relatives, including 4 kids, killed in tragic crash

Angelina, Lissette Medrano-Perez's three kids and Medrano-Perez (Photos courtesy family)

Family and friends are heartbroken after a Molalla mother, her three kids and her niece were killed in a head-on crash Sunday evening.

Lisette Medrano-Perez, 25, was driving her two boys, 8-year-old Ricardo Contreras and 6-year-old Andrus Contreras, her 4-year-old daughter and her 2-year-old niece, Angelina, southbound on 99E when a suspected drunken driver crossed the center line and crashed into them head-on.

All five were pronounced dead at the scene.

"I'm kind of in shock, I still can't believe it. I can't stop thinking about it. I just feel for my friend," close family friend Mercedes Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said she got a bad feeling Sunday afternoon when the crash occurred.

"Automatically, something just told me that maybe I would know who it was going to be," Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said she will never forget little Angelina's smile and love for life.

"[She was smiley, cute]. ... There was not a time where I saw that little girl unhappy," Gutierrez said. "They are so little, so young still."

Both Contreras' boys attended Molalla Elementary School. Ricardo was in the third grade and Andrus was in the first grade.

Molalla River School District Superintendent Tony Mann says parents at the school were sent home a letter, detailing the conversation teachers had with students and explained extra counselors were made available:

Dear MES Parents,

You may have heard the tragic news about yesterday’s car accident that took the lives of five people in Molalla. Two of them were students at MES. When a school suffers a loss, students are apt to talk about it when they get home. It’s very helpful for parents to know what occurred and what was said at school.

This morning, after arrival, our classroom teachers read the following statement to their students:

This morning we received some sad news. We learned that two of our MES students died in a car accident--first grader Andrus Contreras and his third grade brother Ricardo Contreras. It happened near Salem on Sunday afternoon (yesterday).

When things like this happen, people have all different kinds of reactions like shock, sadness, fear and anger. These reactions may rise and fall throughout the day, and even for days to come. Some of us will need some quiet time and others may want time to talk with someone. Some of you who didn’t know Andrus and Ricardo may be ready for me to return to normal activities sooner than others. We all just need to practice patience and have respect for each other. Students wanting to make cards for the family, talk with one another, or who need more time alone to think and talk about this may go to Mrs. Bergin’s office. You’ll have to let me know so I know where you are. We might remain on our regular schedule, but we may also adjust things too.

At MES, we’re safe, respectful, and responsible. Today, respectful might mean that we’re just a little nicer to each other, that we’re saying positive things, and that we’re being sensitive about comments we’re making about Andrus and Ricardo, car accidents, and other stories of loss. Be sensitive of others. Be respectful to our whole MES Family.

At home, your child may bring up questions, concerns, or fears. The following may help you respond.

  • Pay attention to whether they want to talk. Bring it up in case your child is reluctant to do so.
  • Ask about his or her reactions and accept those feelings as stated.

Resist the temptation to minimize the pain, deny the feelings, or give advice. Listen to how it makes them feel.

  • With younger children, be concrete and brief in your answers.

If you have any questions, please contact our school office at 503-829-4333. We’re here to help you. Our counselor Robin Bergin has the support of our Molalla River School District counselors and local resources for helping you.

Sincerely,

Frank Luzaich

Principal, Molalla Elementary

Several of the boys' classmates go to Caterpiller Clubhouse, a day care center, after school. Their teachers say it was a difficult day for everyone.

"I just asked them why and they're like, 'Well, one of my best friends died today.' I was like, 'Oh my gosh, that's a hard sentence to come across,'" said Kellsie Gobet, the head teacher at Caterpillar Clubhouse. "A lot of them were in their class; they played with them at recess together. A lot of kids in the room, they were just really affected by it."

The teachers also had to break some news to some parents.

"A lot of the parents had no clue that their kids were having a bad day. They didn't know what I was talking about," said Holly Wilder, the owner of Caterpillar Clubhouse.

Wilder says an important piece of advice to parents is to be honest with children when talking about grief.

"Really just validating that it's hard. We as adults, we don't know how to deal with death. It's a hard thing for us to learn," she said. "We just dealt with a lot of bad behavior because they were in overload because they didn't know how to deal with their emotions that they were coming off the bus with. So we really just had to lay low."

At the day care, teachers used the crash as a way to help older children understand the consequences of a bad decision.

"Some of the older kids, we explained because of drunk driving, and they said it was a very bad choice," said Wilder. "A whole family can be gone with you just making one bad choice, so just thinking through your decisions even as adults."

A GoFundMe page has been created to help their families pay for funerals.

On Monday morning, Favian R. Garcia, 27, from Gervais, was booked in the Marion County Jail on five counts of first-degree manslaughter, felony while driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving, misdemeanor driving while suspended, and outstanding unrelated Marion County warrants.

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