Family members identify five victims of I-5 Mission Viejo crash [Updated]
Two family members this morning identified the five people killed Tuesday when their SUV skidded off Interstate 5 in Mission Viejo as residents of San Pedro.
Juan Antonio and Belinda Sandoval, 37 and 33, respectively, their two daughters — Nayalli, 11, and Natalie, 4 — and Belinda’s 6-year-old niece were in the vehicle when it rolled down an embankment and caught fire, said Leticia Sandoval, Juan Antonio’s younger sister.
They were on their way to Legoland in Carlsbad, another relative said.
Juan Antonio, known as “Tony” to friends and family, was the manager of a Burger King restaurant, his sister said. His wife worked at another Burger King. The couple had been married for 12 years and lived with their daughters in San Pedro.
Tony was very close to his brothers and sisters, most of whom live in Southern California, Leticia Sandoval said. She said the last time the family got together was when Tony and Natalie had a joint-birthday bash over the Fourth of July weekend. Father and daughter were born just one day apart, she said, and members of both Tony's and Belinda’s families attended the barbecue in the park.
Leticia Sandoval said the family was gearing up to celebrate Nayalli’s 12th birthday next month.
“It’s still a shock to us,” she said. “We still can’t believe it.”
The Orange County coroner’s office has not released the identities of those who died in the crash.
[Updated at 3:10 p.m.: Belinda Sandoval’s younger brother, Pedro Leon, was at the Sandoval house this afternoon, trying to find information to help coroner’s officials identify the family.
The Sandovals’ small white stucco house sits on a corner with a white picket fence on one side and a chain-link fence in the front. Toys were scattered about the yard — a turquoise and purple girls bike, a small tricycle, a lavender Barbie jeep, a small plastic chair and an easel on which someone had drawn a smiling cloud.
Five candles and a dozen white roses were placed in front.
Leon said he last saw his sister the day before the accident at his house, just blocks away. He gave her a big hug before she left. “I didn’t know it was going to be the last time,” he said.
Belinda Sandoval had seven sisters and one brother, Leon said. The family was originally from Michoacan, Mexico and came to the United States when Belinda was 13, looking for more opportunities, Leon said.
“She was the best sister, always smiling,” he said. He said that Belinda and her husband always tried to take the kids out to different places, which was why they decided to take the kids to Legoland on their day off.
He identified the niece in the vehicle as Andrea Flores, the daughter of one of Belinda’s sisters. Leon said that family members from both Juan’s and Belinda’s families were gathered at his house.
“We want people to pray for them,” he said. ]
-- Paloma Esquivel and My-Thuan Tran, reporting from San Pedro and Orange County
Photo: A charred Chevrolet Tracker is removed from the scene. Witnesses said the SUV blew a tire, but officials say they're still investigating the cause of the crash. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times