Teresa Esparza Hernandez was terrified of driving a car. When family members would tease her about the fear, she would insist she was terrified of dying in a car crash.
Hernandez was one of two people killed Saturday in a tragic collision along southbound Interstate 15 in Scripps Ranch.
The 84-year-old Escondido woman was a passenger in a vehicle that was struck by a wrong-way driver.
Rodolfo De La Torre, 55, of Escondido, was behind the wheel of the Honda Civic and also died in the crash.
His sister and Hernandez's daughter, Claudia De La Torre, spoke with NBC 7 on Monday and described the injuries suffered by the surviving family members who were in the back seat of the vehicle.
In the back seat were Rodolfo's wife Angelica and her two children 20-year-old Julio and 19-year-old Carolina. Angelica and Julio are in the ICU at Scripps La Jolla. Carolina is in intensive care at Sharp. Angelica and Julio suffered broken necks, head trauma and severe abdomen injuries from the seatbelt. Carolina suffered broken ribs, broken clavicle and head trauma.
The California Highway Patrol said 21-year-old Shane McDonald in a black Audi A4 was driving in the wrong direction in the express lanes of the freeway when he collided head-on with the Civic.
The Honda Civic changed lanes to avoid the collision with the wrong-way driver, but McDonald simultaneously did the same maneuver and the vehicles collided head-on, officers said.
McDonald also had to be extricated from his vehicle. He was arrested on suspicion of two counts of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and five counts of felony DUI causing injury or death, officials said. Because he is still recovering, CHP says he will be arraigned in the hospital in the next few days.
The family was driving to the Tijuana airport to catch a 6 a.m. flight to Aguascalientes, Mexico.
Hernandez wanted to visit her hometown to see family, Claudia said.
Her grandmother grew up in Mexico but had been living in San Diego since 1975. She had six kids – five of whom live in San Diego.
Claudia said her brother, who grew up in Escondido, served in the U.S. Army before working for the post office. He had recently started taking cooking classes and was working as a pastry chef at Valley View Casino, she said.
Angelica is an accountant at Casino Pauma. Her children graduated from Escondido High School.
Carolina is a freshman at Palomar College. Julio is attending Pacific College in the Los Angeles area, Claudia said.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for the family, hoping to cover funeral bills and medical expenses.