SALEM, Ore. -- A mother and four children died in a two-vehicle crash in Marion County on Sunday afternoon and authorities arrested a driver for driving under the influence and multiple counts of manslaughter.
Oregon State Police said the crash happened at 4:30 p.m. at the corner of Highway 99E and Nevada Street NE, about a mile north of Salem.
Lizette Medrano-Perez, 25, of Molalla, her three children, Ricardo Medrano-Contreras, 8, Andrus Medrano-Contreras, 6, Dayanara Medrano-Perez, 4, and her 2-year-old niece, Angelina Vazquez-Crisp, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Lizette was the temporary legal guardian of Angelina.
The preliminary investigation indicates a northbound Land Rover, driven by Favian R. Garcia, 27, from Gervais, and a southbound Buick Century, occupied by Medrano-Perez and her children, collided head-on while the two drivers were negotiating a corner.
Garcia had minor injuries and was transported to a local hospital. He was arrested and has been accused of five counts of manslaughter; felony DUII; reckless driving and driving while suspended. He also had outstanding Marion County warrants for failure to appear on a DUII citation and interference with making a report from last July.
Court records also show that he was issued a DUII citation in August 2011 and had a June 2013 arrest for interfering with a peace/parole/probation officer and third-degree escape.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
'She was such a loving mother'
“It was so surreal. It was like I was in shock. I just couldn't take it all in, especially all five of them, all in one hit, wiped out. I just couldn't believe it,” said Maria Segoviano, Lizette’s friend of more than 10 years.
“She was such a loving mother. She was very outgoing, charismatic and she always had this smile on her face,” Segoviano said.
She said Lizette’s children were sweethearts, too. Two of the boys, ages six and eight, attended Molalla Elementary.
“They were so amazing. Every morning they would come and give me a hug,” recalled Segoviano.
“They were amazing children. So I mean that says it all if they came and gave hugs in the morning. They're going to be truly missed.”
Molalla River School District Superintendent Tony Mann said he heard the news from Oregon State Police on Sunday night. Staff made sure they were prepared to help kids and teachers on Monday.
“We had a number of children right away with broken hearts needing extra support. So I'm grateful that we had the additional counselors there to support them,” said Mann.
People in Molalla are pulling together to support each other and reflecting on their own lives.
“It's amazing how much you can lose in one second. So try to live your life to the fullest,” said Segoviano.