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Los Angeles

Vigil for Brothers Burned in Crash

Tragedy: Friends plan weekend of fund-raisers to help family pay medical expenses.

July 27, 2002|ANTHONY McCARTNEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Victor and Felipe Velez laid in the same hospital room Friday, both severely burned and in extremely critical condition after a car crash last Sunday afternoon.

The teenage brothers were driving to a soccer match on the Pomona Freeway when a Ford Mustang racing another car hit the side of their truck, flipping it onto its roof and trapping the pair inside, according to authorities.

The Velezes' truck caught fire. Bystanders yanked the boys from the cab, taking hold of what was left of their blue-and-white uniforms.

Family and friends in their Long Beach neighborhood have spent the last week dealing with the difficult status reports: Felipe's condition is improving; Victor's is not.

Both are burned on more than 65% of their bodies.

Friday, friends organized a weekend of car washes and door-to-door fund-raising, hoping to help the family pay medical expenses.

Recently, their father's health worsened and he stopped working.

Their mother supports the family by working as a housekeeper.

Authorities arrested two men allegedly racing their cars and charged them with causing injuries while involved in a "speed race."

Omar Quito, 22, and Jose Antonio Vasquez, 19, posted bail but could be charged with vehicular manslaughter if either brother dies.

This summer, Victor, 19, and Felipe, 16, planned to travel with their father to Guadalajara so they could try out for a Mexican soccer league team.

"It was their dream to be soccer players," said Sandra Velez, 23. "To be famous."

The family moved to the U.S. from Guadalajara about eight years ago.

Felipe's parents both worked to provide for their six children--four girls and two boys.

Without fail, they bought Victor's and Felipe's soccer shoes, Sandra Velez said.

Once they had their professional careers, Felipe and Victor wanted to treat their mom "como una princesa," Sandra Velez said.

Both were known for wearing soccer jerseys to school.

Felipe, who will enter 11th grade in the fall, would walk into his sixth-period history class and entertain classmates Michelle Magana and Diana Gonzalez with talk about soccer, they said.

At first, the pair had little interest, but by year's end, Felipe's soccer passion proved infectious.

"Felipe made us [care]," Magana said.

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