A 31-year-old mother and two of her daughters were killed in a tragic crash on Interstate 10 in Riverside County Sunday. Six other members of the family were injured in the wreck.
The crash happened around 7:30 a.m. in Whitewater, a town located about 15 minutes northwest of Palm Springs. Officers with the California Highway Patrol responded to the scene on the eastbound 10 Freeway just west Haugen-Lehmann Way, but not before other motorists and Good Samaritans attempted to help the victims.
“When I got into that one lane, I looked ahead of me there was this kid in the fourth lane flailing around on the ground, and people were just driving around him,” Dr. Timothy Jochen told KTLA.
The dermatologist pulled up to the aftermath of the deadly crash and says it’s a scene he will never forget.
“So, I stopped, parked in the median, got out of my car and ran up to the kid,” Jochen said. “I may not be the best person there. I’m not an ER physician, but I’m going to be a heck of a lot better than someone who has no training at all. And if you can just be there, hold pressure and do things you know what to do, it’s better than nobody being there.”
Officials with the California Highway Patrol say a Tesla and an older model Chevrolet Suburban collided, causing the Chevy to crash into the center divider and overturn. Six people inside that vehicle were ejected. The two girls, ages 8 and 11, died, as well as their mother, 31-year-old Cecilia Villalobos of Anaheim. Four other passengers in the Suburban suffered major injuries.
Another Good Samaritan, an ICU nurse who did not want to be identified, ran to the aid of an 11-year-old girl who had been ejected from the Suburban. She and her husband, Juan Coronel, also witnessed the aftermath of the crash.
“She’s like, ‘There’s no paramedics, there’s nobody here yet,’ and she’s like, ‘Pull over.’ I pull over and she just ran off,” Coronel told KTLA.
Officials did say that the passengers in Suburban “were relatives and residents of Anaheim,” and that preliminary information suggests not all of them were wearing “safety restraint systems or seatbelts.”
“In the red Suburban, there were nine people in an eight passenger Suburban,” CHP Officer Jason Montez added.
Two of the family’s other children are being treated in the pediatrics unit at Loma Linda Medical center where both are reported to be in serious condition.
CHP is investigating who is at fault in the crash after getting conflicting reports from both surviving drivers.
For Dr. Jochen, he said the experience was surreal and he hopes it will teach people to help one another when they can.
“Even people that can just stop and keep cars from running over this kid is helpful,” he said. “I think it was disappointing to see the number of people that just kept driving around.