Suspect at-large after double-fatal accident in San Jose

San Jose fatal accident scene
September 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A driver the California Highway Patrol was trying to stop on Highway 101 in San Jose Monday morning ended up eluding the officers, but moments later crashed into a car and killed two women on their way to work.

Carmen Zavala and Christina De Leon were inside the compact car, turning left onto Skyport Drive when a speeding Mercedes smashed into them going southbound on North First Street. The man driving the Mercedes took off on foot and hasn't been seen since. One of the women died in the wreckage. The other was pronounced dead after being transported to a hospital.

Antonio Zavala, from the Central Valley town of Atwater, said his wife Carmen was one of the women killed.

"She was going to work. I think she started at 4 o'clock in the morning," he said.

The passenger was Carmen Zavala's friend and co-worker. They were both cooks at restaurants at Mineta San Jose International Airport, just two blocks from the fatal crash site.

"'It's not safe for you to be walking,' so she offered to pick her up and this tragedy happened and it's sad," said restaurant co-worker Isabel Torres.

San Jose police are still searching for the driver of the Mercedes. They've been checking surveillance camera video at various hotels and businesses along North First Street.

Two CHP officers had spotted the Mercedes weaving on Highway 101 moments before the crash. At 3:15 a.m., the driver was suspected of being sleepy or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. At first the driver appeared to be pulling over, but then he made a run for it.

"Just prior to the intersection of Brokaw and First Street, the vehicle rapidly accelerated through a red light, turning left, or south, onto First Street," said CHP Ofc. Chris Falkowski.

The CHP says if the driver had stopped, two people would not be dead.

Monday night, the families of the two women gathered at the accident site and some family members spoke out. They say the CHP could have prevented the accident altogether.

Family and friends placed flowers and candles at the site. The two families never met until Monday evening, but now they're forever joined by tragedy.

"It's really tough. It's just not fair," said Ramon De Leon, De Leon's son.

CHP officers said they decided not to pursue the driver that caused the accident for safety reasons.

"Just because it was very early in the morning, doesn't mean there are not citizens out and about. There's a 24-hour Denny's in the neighborhood, there are numerous hotels," said Chris Falkowski from the CHP.

However, family members are questioning that decision. They say had the officers pursue the driver of the Mercedes, the two women would likely still be alive.

"She probably could have seen the lights coming still and knowingly would have obviously known there was a pursuit going on and wait for them to pass by so she could make a safe turn," said Michael Turrey, Zavala's nephew.

"Whoever hit us hit our family. We're not mad, just turn yourself in," said Ramon.

It's a request by two families who want justice for their mothers.


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