music in the park san jose

Troubled teen had plans to finish high school and for his
long-term future
Morgan Hill – The family of the young Morgan Hill man killed by a train Wednesday evening is facing yet another heartbreaking dilemma – not having Victor Sandoval’s siblings attend his funeral Thursday.

Adriana Proa, Sandoval’s mother, said her three younger children, who live in foster families in San Diego, are not legally permitted to attend their brother’s funeral this week. Child Protective Services will not allow the visit. 

On Sept. 6, Sandoval, 18, was killed by a train. He had been hanging out with a small group of friends, some of them in their early 20s, some of them teenagers. They had been drinking at their usual spot, near the skate park on Butterfield Boulevard.

Sandoval’s family is devastated. To make matters worse, his relatives – including his mother, who lives in Morgan Hill – have no idea whether his siblings, ages 14, 12 and 6, know their older brother is dead. 

A social worker in Hollister would not allow them to make direct phone calls to the children. And, doing so without permission could endanger the visitation rights of Proa, who has served a six-month jail sentence for drug-related charges, and completed a series of court-ordered substance abuse and parenting classes.

“They told her she needed to take parenting classes, and she did it all,” said Vanessa Camacho, Sandoval’s 21-year-old half-sister who lives in Hollister.

Reeling from their loss, Sandoval’s family now feels bitter and anxious. They see the opportunity to say good-bye to Sandoval together as a whole family, being missed.

His mother feels shunned. She insists she got her life together. 

“I have two jobs, I work all the time, (Child Protective Services) knows everything about me,” lamented the 38-year-old Proa, who was last allowed to speak with her San Diego children in March. 

Sandoval’s father, who spent three and a half years in prison also for drug-related charges, now lives in Hollister.

Stephen Pierce, deputy director of social services for San Benito County Health and Human Services Agency, would not acknowledge the case for confidentiality reasons. Pierce said regulations pertaining to Child Protective Services require the agency to act in the children’s best interests.

“(Hypothetically) something like this is extremely painful for the whole family, but we have to focus the needs of the children,” Pierce said. “Any time something like this happens, the social worker feels anguish.”

Relatives say Sandoval was close to his siblings. He visited them whenever he could. He had wanted them to be together. 

“The only thing that really bothered him was that his brothers and sister weren’t here,” said Cesar Navarro, Sandoval’s 16-year-old cousin who lives in Morgan Hill. “That was the only thing that ever brought a tear to his eye.”

Sandoval had been living a troubled life apart from his three siblings since 2003, when the foursome was split into two foster homes.

About that time, he started acting out, drinking heavily at times. His troubles with alcohol eventually led to a nine-month stint at a rehab center. He was released in 2005 to an aunt in Hollister, according to the family.

About two months ago, after his 18th birthday, Sandoval moved in with his mother as a legal adult. He planned to enroll in Central Continuation High School in Morgan Hill this year, to earn his diploma.

His mother said Sandoval had been working for a temp agency, giving her money. He often talked of being a firefighter. He was a “good boy,” she said.

Whether alcohol played a role in her son’s death is still unknown.

“I keep thinking he’s out with friends, and he’ll be home in a while,” Proa said. 

Despite Sandoval’s struggles with alcohol, Navarro said his cousin was a hard worker when he set his mind to it. He believes Sandoval would have lived a long and happy life.

“He made plans for his future,” Navarro said. “All we ever talked about was what me and him were going to do together. We wanted to buy our moms houses, have our kids around the same time. I was naming my kid after him, he was naming his kid after me. We were supposed to get old together.”

Navarro was with Sandoval the night he was killed. He thinks Sandoval may have rushed across the tracks to join him on the other side. After the terrible accident, Navarro tried to run to Sandoval’s body, but was detained by the police. He started “fisting and fighting” with them, he said, and that’s when they took him in to the police station. He was later released to his family, devastated.

“Every day we’d just hang out,” Navarro said of his cousin, one of his closest friends. “He’d always have a smile on his face.”

Those wishing to contribute to the Victor Sandoval Memorial Fund to help his family pay for funeral expenses may send checks made out to the fund to any Washington Mutual Bank branch. 

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