Salcido family alleges wrongful death

A makeshift cross, balloons and flowers cover the scene of the car accident, along the 6300 block of Miller Avenue, that claimed the life of Christopher High sophomore and cheerleader Natalia Salcido, 15.

GILROY—The parents of a 15-year-old girl killed in a car accident on Miller Avenue are planning to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the city. The family believes that another fatal wreck in the same location three months prior should have moved the city to make safety improvements.
Chris and Andora Salcido, whose eldest daughter, Natalia, was killed May 9 when the car she was riding in struck a tree on the 6300 block of Miller Avenue, said city officials should have spent $25,000 on guardrails and signage after another fatal crash occurred there in February.
The Gilroy family filed a government tort claim in Santa Clara County Superior Court seeking more than $2.5 million in damages, which the Gilroy City Council denied without discussion this month. Denials of such claims are routine. Manteca-based attorney Armando Venegas is representing the family.
On Feb. 3, a 28-year-old Gilroy man died when the SUV he was driving struck a tree on the same stretch of road.
“We want to make sure something like this doesn’t continue to happen there,” Chris Salcido told the Dispatch. “We don’t want Natalia’s death to be the second of many deaths that happen on that street—or anywhere else in the city of Gilroy. We want to make sure this doesn’t keep happening again and again and that it doesn’t just get brushed under the rug.”
The two accidents are the first at this location since 2005, according to Gilroy Police Department Sgt. Royce Heath. Both occurred just minutes after 10 p.m. No charges were brought by police in either accident.
San Francisco-based attorney Gregg Thornton, of Selman Breitman LLP, is representing the city. He said Tuesday the city has not yet filed a formal response but told the Dispatch that based on his analysis, the roadway is not dangerous.
“Obviously, Ms. Salcido’s incident was a tragedy and we have empathy for the family. But on the other hand, looking at the history of the road and its configuration, every indication we have suggests the road is in compliance with Caltrans specifications.”
Police have not acknowledged any contributing factors—such as mechanical issues, distracted driving or other potential causes may have played a role—citing ongoing investigations in both cases.
Andora Salcido recalled being awestruck when she and her husband learned Natalia’s death was not the first this year on that stretch of winding road.
“We couldn’t believe it had happened again, just a few months prior,” she said. “We were just in disbelief.”
Of all other non-fatal crashes in the area since 2005, Heath said a “large number” have been related to driving under the influence.
In the May 9 wreck, the driver and another passenger—both female juveniles—survived with minor injuries. The driver in the Feb. 3 crash, later identified as Jack Edwin Adams, was the lone occupant.
According to Thornton, police reports in both cases stated that neither driver was “using due care” when the accidents occurred.
The Salcidos are left wondering if their daughter would still be alive had the city installed signage warning of the curve ahead, or reflectors along the roadway, or a guardrail to keep vehicles from going off the road.
The city should have taken action after the first death in 2015, said Chris Salcido, who works as a captain with the San Jose Fire Department.
“Normally when something like that happens and there’s an investigation, cities or responsible parties make changes to make sure that type of thing doesn’t happen ever again. But it didn’t happen,” he said.
At some point after the May 9 accident, however, signage warning drivers of a sharp curve ahead was installed approaching the 6300 block of Miller Avenue.
But the Salcidos say it’s “too little, too late.”