The family of a 7-year-old boy in California is left mourning after an inattentive driver hit and killed him while crossing the road. The motorist has since been arrested and faces substantial charges.
Francisco Garate and his son Gabriel had always done everything together as best friends and Tuesday, July 26, was no exception. It was a beautiful evening in Long Beach, California when the dad decided to accompany his 7-year-old son to a nearby park to play baseball.
On their way to the venue right across the street, the pair approached an intersection and proceeded to cross the road using a crosswalk.
A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE
However, Francisco and Gabriel never reached the other side, as an approaching vehicle suddenly hit the little boy. The aggrieved father watched in horror as the life slowly seeped out of his son.
Nothing could have prepared the devastated dad for the tragic occurrence at the busy intersection of Lakewood Boulevard and 23rd street. Francisco knew at that moment that life, as he knew it, was over. He reflected:
“To lose your son in such a horrible way, such a horrible way to lose a child.”
Amid sobs, the aggrieved dad explained that they did everything right to prevent such an incident, which made it more devastating. The two crossed the streets through the marked south crosswalk and had the right of way at the time.
However, the driver, operating a Dodge pick-up truck, failed to yield the right of way to the pedestrians crossing eastbound. Gabriel, happily walking in front of his dad, took the full impact of the collision, dying instantly, while his dad barely avoided the same fate.
COMING TO TERMS WITH THE REALITY
Although Francisco escaped the incident unscathed, watching his son die felt like his own life was also drained from him. Recounting the devastating moment everything turned upside down, the dad said:
“I grabbed him, I held him, just held him in my arms. He was just taken so abruptly.”
At that moment, not only did Francisco lose a son, but he also lost his best friend and a massive part of his existence. He said, “We did everything together. He was my best friend.”
Now, the heartbroken parents have to live the rest of their lives, knowing they once had a beautiful boy who was energetic and full of life.
Even while facing the bitter reality of their son’s death, Gabriel’s family has strived to find comfort in the memories they built together. His family remembers him as a bright, energetic kid who brought them laughter and love.
Aside from his unconditional love for his parents, the boy loved the beach, sporting activities, and school. The grief-stricken mom, Dawn Garate, said of her son:
“He was my baby boy. He was so happy and smart. He had such a personality on him.”
And that’s how the Garate family wants the world to remember him – the smart, vibrant Gabriel Garate who loved life — and not a victim.
THE LAW WOULD TAKE ITS COURSE
Following the accident, the motorist, James Barnes, 57, of Desert Hot Springs, remained at the scene until law enforcement arrived and cooperated with the investigations.
Investigators do not believe drugs and alcohol played a role in the crash. They also ruled out distracted driving as a possible factor. Barnes, who claimed he did not see the boy before the collision, was taken into custody on felony charges of vehicular manslaughter and gross negligence.
He has since been released after posting a $50,000 bail. However, the circumstances of the accident and Gabriel’s death have made it even harder for the family to deal with the loss. Speaking to interviewers amid tears, Dawn divulged:
“I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye because somebody wasn’t paying attention.”
Meanwhile, investigations into the tragic incident remain in the works. The boy’s family has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for his funeral.
A CALL FOR CHANGE
Since the fatal accident, several residents of the Long Beach community have called on the authorities to put measures in place to make the busy intersection safer for pedestrians.
Gabriel’s parents believe the incident could have been avoided if the driver had paid attention to the road while driving.
Dawn, who still struggles to accept the reality of her son’s death, had a message for all motorists out there, urging them to be more attentive so more people do not suffer the loss of their loved ones. She said:
“Pay attention because you take a life – you can take an innocent life.”
Family members, friends, and residents of the Long Beach community turned up at the intersection to pay their last respects to the beloved youngster as he transitioned into the afterlife.
A vigil in Gabriel’s honor was held at night on Wednesday, July 27, at the accident scene.