– In a path of destruction where shards of glass and shattered
hearts remained Monday, friends and family remembered two
18-year-old men killed in Saturday night’s tragic single-car crash
in rural San Benito County.
HOLLISTER – In a path of destruction where shards of glass and shattered hearts remained Monday, friends and family remembered two 18-year-old men killed in Saturday night’s tragic single-car crash in rural San Benito County. Paul “P.J.” Galvan and Matthew Lopez, both graduates of San Benito High School, died when a car driven by Omar De La Cruz, 16, plowed into a field and toppled on its roof.
Two other 18-year-old passengers, Joshua Badillo and Ricardo Cosio, sustained injuries but survived.
“I can’t believe this, I really can’t believe this,” said Brandi Rodriguez Galvan, P.J.’s cousin, while at the accident site reading a green electrical box scrolled by inscriptions. “I’ll remember his smile. I’ve never seen that boy in my life with a frown on his face.”
Paul Galvan moved from Gilroy to Hollister with his family 11 years ago.
Scores, maybe hundreds, of people visited the memorial throughout the day Monday. What started as a poster board and roses Sunday became an exhibition of mementos – letters, poems, a golf club and ball, a baseball, candles and balloons.
“You never dream of things like that,” said Tina Mangano, Lopez’s aunt, who visited the memorial Monday morning with her husband, Angelo. “You never dream of it happening in your family.”
Meanwhile on Monday, law enforcement authorities described a more complete picture of the weekend accident. Alcohol was involved, and De La Cruz, a junior at the high school, will likely be charged with one or two counts of vehicular manslaughter and driving while under the influence, according to Terry Mayes, information officer for the California Highway Patrol.
District Attorney John Sarsfield makes those decisions – he expected to receive the complaint Tuesday, he said. De La Cruz was booked at the San Benito County Juvenile Hall late Sunday. If Sarsfield does not charge him within 48 hours of the booking, De La Cruz would be released until charges are filed, if they’re filed, according to the district attorney.
On Saturday at about 11 p.m., De La Cruz drove a 1993 Ford Taurus at a high velocity on Santa Ana Valley Road through a stop sign where the rural avenue intersects with Fairview Road.
In the cold and rain, the car hit the ditch embankment head-on and went airborne about 200 feet, according to a CHP report. Afterward, one passenger said he had observed the speedometer at 110 mph, according to Mayes.
The car hit the ground, overturned and slid on its roof. It stopped just before toppling into the Santa Ana Creek, a tributary that cuts through Fairview Road, according to the report.
Galvan and Lopez died in the vehicle before rescuers arrived. De La Cruz and Cosio were airlifted to San Jose Medical Center with major injuries. Both were discharged Sunday, when De La Cruz was taken to Juvenile Hall.
The two passengers who survived – Cosio and Badillo – both sustained cuts to their hands and arms, along with experiencing back, neck and knee pain, Mayes said. Everyone in the car, she said, was wearing a seat belt.
The county Sheriff’s Department conducted the autopsies Monday afternoon on Galvan and Lopez, according to Sgt. Wes Walker. But the results were not available by press time.
On Monday, immediate family members talked about the kind nature of the men, both of whom were attending their first years at Gavilan College.
“He (P.J.) was a nice enough football player, once he knocked you down, he’d help you up,” said Robert Galvan, P.J.’s father, of his involvement with Baler football. Galvan also played baseball in high school and was playing his first year at Gavilan.
Lora Lopez, Matthew’s mother, also mentioned her son’s involvement in sports – in his case, golf in high school and prospectively at Gavilan in the spring.
“My son Matt was a beautiful person,” she said. “He was a very happy person. He always had a smile on his face.”