Otay Reservoir Crash Victim an 'Angel': Family

Family too consumed with loss, too overwhelmed to blame anyone

By Mari Payton and R. Stickney
|  Tuesday, Aug 7, 2012  |  Updated 6:58 AM PDT
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Giuliana Figueroa had just graduated preschool and was getting ready to attend her first day of kindergarten next week. The 5-year-old Chula Vista girl was killed when the car she was riding in crashed into Otay Reservoir and flipped over onto its roof. NBC 7's Mari Payton reports.

Giuliana Figueroa had just graduated preschool and was getting ready to attend her first day of kindergarten next week. The 5-year-old Chula Vista girl was killed when the car she was riding in crashed into Otay Reservoir and flipped over onto its roof. NBC 7's Mari Payton reports.

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Giuliana Figueroa had just graduated preschool and was getting ready to attend her first day of kindergarten next week.

The 5-year-old Chula Vista girl, like many young girls, wanted to be a princess.

On Sunday, Giuliana was killed when the car she was riding in crashed into Otay Reservoir and flipped over onto its roof. Her father's girlfriend is accused of causing the crash that killed her.

Family members, overwhelmed with emotion, can't believe she's really gone.

Chris Figueroa, Giuliana’s godfather, who told NBC 7 the family called the child “Giu Giu,” said the loss is tough to take.

“She was a lovable little girl, she could literally light up anyone’s day,” he said adding that little Giu Giu would randomly tell family members how much she loved them.

Giuliana was trapped in the backseat of the Kia Sorento after it had crashed into a section of the reservoir along Wueste Road.

Her father, Eric Figueroa, was the passenger in the SUV when it crashed. He managed to escape, but couldn't save his daughter.

“I am pretty sure her father did everything in his power to you know get her out,” said the child’s uncle Gabriel Lucero who, along with his wife, had cared for Giuliana for several years when she was younger.

Eric's girlfriend, Arlene Hernandez, 22, of Chula Vista, was driving the car and escaped uninjured.

Her daughter, 5-year-old Lesette Silva was in the backseat with Giuliana and also died from injuries she suffered in the crash.

Hernandez was arrested after the rescue and is currently being held on $400,000 bail. She faces four felony charges including gross vehicular manslaughter, cruelty to child leading to death, and DUI drugs/alcohol resulting in bodily injury.

Giuliana’s godfather and uncle said they aren’t thinking about Hernandez or looking to blame anyone for the loss of the child they loved so much.

“I’m nobody to judge,” Lucero said. “I can’t cast judgment. All my thoughts and my prayers are with the girls, first my niece and then the Silva family.”

Giuliana loved anything that had to do with princesses. Her favorite spot was a play area in her home where she would be nestled with her dolls, pretending she was a princess.

“She’s our little angel,” Figueroa said.

Lucero agreed, “As parents, you look over your children, now she’s looking over us.”

The family is organizing a fundraiser to help pay funeral expenses. A public viewing will take place Sunday, Aug. 12 at Community Mortuary on Broadway in Chula Vista from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

They are expecting family members from Los Angeles and Tijuana to attend.

Funeral services are scheduled for Monday. 

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