Tucson, AZ Auto And Van Collision, Aug 1997


Tucson - (AP) - Bodies of several small children lay strewn across an intersection while other dead and injured were trapped in the twisted, mangled hulk of what had been a minivan.
Police say a car hit the van after running a stop sign Sunday night. The grisly toll: eight relatives killed - five of them children. Four others from the van remained in critical condition Monday at area hospitals.
Detective Marty Fuentes said the car's driver, CARLOS MANUEL PERALTA, vowed to kill himself shortly before the crash and sped past a stop sign into a residential intersection with a 25 mph limit, slamming into the van at more than 60 mph.
It occurred less than a block from the home of van driver CARLOS CHAVEZ, 32, who died with two of his four children, CARLA, 4, and CRYSTA, 6.
PERALTA, 30, who investigators said was driving with a revoked license and apparently was distraught over marital problems, tried to flee on foot but was caught near the scene.
"He threatened to kill himself, but it was not the first time," Fuentes said. "He had made mention of that to his wife. They had a dispute moments before the collision took place."
PERALTA was booked into the Pima County Jail on eight counts of first-degree murder and nine counts of aggravated assault. "There is some indication that he was impaired," said Fuentes, noting that blood and urine samples were taken.
PERALTA, whose license had several suspensions, probably also will be charged with leaving the scene of a collision and failing to render aid, Fuentes said.
PERALTA'S car intruded four feet into the van's passenger compartment. That made seat belts "a moot point," Fuentes said. "The collision was so horrendous that it knocked the rear seat out of the van."
CHAVEZ'S relatives had been visiting other family members, and CHAVEZ was on his way to drop off his wife and children at home before driving the relatives to Nogales so that they could return home Monday to Mexico.
BLANCA GARCIA, 28, CHAVEZ'S wife, and their other two children, CARLOS, JR., 8, and ANGEL, a 6-month-old boy, were among those critically injured.
ANTONIA AHUMADA, 36, and daughters EVARARDO, 10, and NADIA, 12, also were killed, while her son, ANTONIO, 8, was injured. Two other relatives, PAOLA SALAZAR, 12, and MARCELA MENDEZ, 24, also died.
All but CRYSTAL CHAVEZ died at the scene; she was pronounced dead about three hours later at University Medical Center, a fire department spokesman, Capt. Brian Delfs, said.
The driver of a third vehicle in the collision was not hurt, Delfs said.
"It's surprising with all the impaired drivers around that we don't have more of these, and that may be coming in the future," Fuentes said. "Every once in a while you have a stray bullet, and this was it."

Arizona Republic Phoenix 1997-08-19