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Grandmother, 1-year-old granddaughter killed in head-on crash near Modesto

1-year-old, grandmother killed in crash that killed 2 others in Modesto
1-year-old, grandmother killed in crash that killed 2 others in Modesto 03:34

MODESTO - We are learning more about the four people who died in a four-car crash in the community of Del Rio north of Modesto on Tuesday.

The crash happened on McHenry Avenue just north of Hogue Road, east of the Del Rio Country Club.

"I went out in front and my gosh, it was disastrous, heart-wrenching," said Barney Aggers, who lives near the crash. "It looked like a NASCAR crash."

Two of the victims were identified as 60-year-old Patricia Lopez and her 1-year-old granddaughter, Clara Howells. They were hit head-on by a driver who swerved onto the wrong side of the rural road.

"The best way to describe this is it was instant and intense," said Officer Tom Olsen with California Highway Patrol Modesto. "Most of us are parents, not just first responders. I can tell you without hesitation that the first responders there did everything they could to save that child's life."

Olsen said 19-year-old Angeles Escoto was driving in the fast lane northbound on McHenry Avenue when she swerved left and then right, crossing the divider and crashing head-on into Lopez and her grandbaby. Two more cars were caught up in the collision.

"Fireman everywhere, cutting the car apart," Aggers said. "The one that went across the center divider was blown apart."

Escoto and 23-year-old Francis Catano, who was in Escoto's passenger seat, died instantly.

"I heard a big bunch of metal cars crashing, but I didn't know that people had gotten killed," said Eddie Gomez, who lives up the road and heard the crash.

People who live nearby said cars are always hauling on the long 55 miles per hour stretch that was widened in recent years.

"They boot, scoot and boogie through here," Gomez said.

Aggers said he has also had some close calls with reckless drivers and believes cameras need to be put up to catch them. 

"People go by here at 100 miles per hour," Aggers said.

It is too soon to know if speeding, drugs or alcohol caused the four-car crash, but CHP officers were back at the scene on Wednesday continuing to investigate.

CBS13 was out there Wednesday when a stranger brought flowers to the scene. He said he lost his own son in a car crash 14 years ago and it never gets easier.

"I don't know the family, but I know the pain," the man told CBS13.

Now, a mother is grieving the loss of her 1-year-old baby girl and her own mother who never made it home.

"We usually give a traffic safety message regarding these incidents. If you don't do this already, go home, hug your kid and tell them you love them," Olsen said.

Olsen said that there were also several good Samaritans who jumped into action to try and save the victims. CBS13 spoke with one of them over the phone who said he was holding Lopez's hand down to what he believed was her final breath. He said she was saying her husband's name and his thoughts and prayers go out to her daughter.

"You see the impacts of this stuff and my heart goes out to the family of that grandmother and the little baby," Aggers said.

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