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Girl killed in crash always had 'smile on her face,' neighbor says

April 01, 2013|By Ruben Vives and Joseph Serna

The Fernandez home in East Los Angeles was quiet Monday morning, two days after five relatives, including a 13-year-old girl, were killed by a suspected drunk driver as they returned home from Colorado.

“Such a sad thing to hear,” said Maria-Elena Ramirez, 59, a neighbor of Leonardo Fernandez and his family on Northside Drive. “Such a sad thing to happen.”

About 3 a.m. Saturday, Genaro Fernandez, 41, of Norwalk, Raudel Fernandez-Avila, 49, and Belen Fernandez, 53, both of Lynwood, and Leonardo Fernandez-Avila, 45, and Angela Sandoval, 13, both of Los Angeles, were on their way back to Southern California after visiting a sick relative in Colorado when their van was rear-ended.

All five were killed in the crash on Interstate 15 in southeastern Nevada.

Two other people in the van were critically injured and remain in the hospital.

Authorities arrested 18-year-old Jean Soriano, who police say was drunk when he drove a Dodge Durango into the rear of the Fernandez’s Chevy Astro van, causing it to spin out and overturn.

Soriano was treated at the hospital and released. A 23-year-old passenger riding with him survived. A Nevada Highway Patrol officer said bottles of beer were found in the Durango.

Soriano was booked on suspicion of seven counts of driving under the influence, as well as driving without a license and failing to reduce his speed.

The news of the family’s death, particularly 13-year-old Angela’s, spread quickly. Angela’s classmates were organizing a candlelight vigil for her Monday night.

“I’m going to miss that little girl,” said Ramirez, Angela’s neighbor. “She was always walking around with a smile on her face.”

There were three white balloons tied to the plants along the humble green walkway leading to Angela’s home Monday morning.

One said “RiP Angela, we miss you.”

A relative of the family said they were starting a fund to help pay for the funerals. The fund is called the Fernandez Foundation at Bank of America.

Angela’s friends are planning to hold a carwash over the weekend in Pico Rivera.

ALSO:

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Beer bottles found in SUV that crashed, killing 5 family members

Car thief crashes into Long Beach police cruiser, escapes on foot 

ruben.vives@latimes.com

joseph.serna@latimes.com


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