Dozens of mourners gather at Wat Lau Saysata in Santa Rosa, the Buddhist temple where 76-year-old Phang Phetsomphou and his 74-year-old wife Bouaket worshipped almost daily. The couple was more than parishioners, they founded the temple 11 years ago. Their loss is now unimaginable.
"This is too soon," temple member Boutsaba Janetvilay said. "I feel like his work is not done here. There's much more. He needs to be with us to help us."
The Petaluma couple was in a BMW traveling westbound on Interstate 80 near Sacramento Thursday morning when a big rig driver lost control, crashed through the center guard rail, and hit their car head-on.
According to the California Highway Patrol, the truck driver, 45-year-old John Manuszak, was driving eastbound when he choked on food and lost consciousness.
A small flower and card was left Friday at the couple's home in Petaluma. Neighbors say they were kind and loving.
"Loving people," neighbor Marie Carey said. "Loved their church, were good to the poor and homeless, just very lovely people."
Phang and his wife came to California from Laos 30 years ago, and would help others like Boutsaba navigate the immigration system.
"He knows how the system in the U.S. works so he helped us," Boutsaba said.
Neighbor Carey remembers a conversation with Phang last week as they were preparing to mourn a temple member who passed away.
"He was kidding with me, saying, 'oh, I want you to help me with my funeral too,'" she said. "And so I said sure, but he said it's not going to happen anytime soon."
According to Buddhist traditions, the funeral for the couple will last seven days.
The big rig driver who hit them is from Fresno. The DMV says he was caught driving with a suspended license in 2009. According to his Facebook page is a recovering substance abuser. He has not been cited or charged in this accident by the CHP.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)