Community members and family of a married couple killed by a wrong-way driver last week in Chino Hills gathered Sunday in Lake Elsinore to remember the beloved partners.  

The crash happened on Mar. 19, at around 2:30 a.m., in the southbound lanes of the 71 Freeway near the Central Avenue exits. 

According to California Highway Patrol, several people called 911 to report a driver traveling northbound in the southbound lanes. The collision, involving four to five vehicles, occurred moments later, officers told news photographers at the scene. 

CHP said a sergeant who was first to arrive on the scene tried to rescue several people trapped inside a burning white sedan, but they were forced to back away because of the intense flames. Four people were later pronounced dead. Another person was transported to a local hospital in an unknown condition. 

Vigil attendees on Sunday were united in prayer to remember Kenyan Americans Ruth and Gedion Mbatha, two of the victims in the crash.  

“Just knowing that this is real, for sure I’m never going to see Gedion or Ruth again, I’m very sad today,” Horelia Kuria, Gedion’s sister, said.  

Kuria will now raise the couple’s three children, ages 3, 8 and 12. Their oldest child, Nathaniel, said his parents’ death feels surreal.  

“I miss playing chess and checkers with my dad,” the 12-year-old said. “I miss playing with him. I miss his jokes. I actually miss him being strict because now I feel like that set me in place.”  

Earlier on the night of the crash, Ruth had showered Gedion with love at a surprise birthday party. Ruth, an adored registered nurse and Gedion, an aeronautical engineer, both were known to exude kindness and care to everyone.  

“What can we do to make this very, very ugly thing and turn it into something beautiful for the kids and for our community?” Kuria asked.  

  • Couple killed by wrong-way driver in Chino Hills
  • Wrong way fatal crash

Loved ones have organized a GoFundMe campaign to support the family’s future. Even at such a young age, Nathaniel wants to keep his parents’ legacy alive by taking care of his brother and sister.  

“That they can live all the way to their full potential, and they can achieve what God wanted for them to achieve,” he said.  

The family members told KTLA that in Kenyan tradition, when one person suffers, everyone suffers, and that it takes a village to move forward together.