A woman, her sons and a family member were on their way to pick up some last-minute groceries for a Christmas Eve celebration when the vehicle they were traveling in crashed head-on into an oncoming pickup truck.
Gonzalo Rodriguez, 44, and Christian Diaz, 5, were killed in the collision just two miles from the family's home.
Christian's mother, Nayeli Rojel, and his brother, Bryan, are in the hospital with injuries they suffered in the crash.
"It's just hard to believe. It is very surreal," said Salvador Rojel, Christian's uncle. "You never think it could happen to you."
Family members were talking about the accident for the first time Thursday and spoke with NBC 7 and our sister station Telemundo 20.
Nayeli Rojel, 26, was admitted to Palomar Medical Center for head injuries and a broken leg. Bryan, 6, was at Rady Children's Hospital with serious injuries.
"When she woke up she was asking for her kids," Salvador Rojel told NBC 7.
"It's my sister and I hate seeing her in the hospital crying out for her kid and I can't do anything about it, " Rojel said.
Nayeli's mother told Telemundo 20 she had the impossible task of telling her daughter on Wednesday the tragic news that Christian did not survive the crash.
Nayeli was in the front passenger seat. Her uncle, Gonzalo, had offered to drive the family to the grocery store to pick up some last-minute items before family members arrived for Christmas Eve dinner.
The California Highway Patrol says the family was traveling westbound on State Route 78 in Ramona at approximately 11 a.m. Monday when Rodriguez lost control of the vehicle, crossed over the double yellow lines and collided with a white pickup truck. The driver of the truck survived.
Rodriguez was killed in the collision. Family members don't know what caused him to lose control of the vehicle. Nayeli does not remember much of the crash.
"She feels like it is her fault and it's not really it's been very traumatizing for her,” Rojel said.
Both kids were belted in the back seat of the silver Camry but investigators say they weren't properly secured.
With Nayeli facing a long recovery and Bryan about to undergo a second surgery, the family is struggling to find the spirit of the season and put on a brave face.
"There is going to be other Christmas celebrations. There is going to be holidays where we are going to celebrate together and this can only bring us closer," Rojel said.
The family has posted an online fundraising page to help raise money for medical and funeral costs.