Three family members -- including a 4-year-old girl -- were all killed when their vehicle was T-boned by a drunk driver while on a Memorial Day weekend trip to Niagara Falls, authorities say.
Four-year-old Kiara Hernandez, of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, was killed in the crash in upstate New York on Sunday morning, according to her father. Her mother, identified by police as 32-year-old Mayelin Brito-Castro; and grandmother, 47-year-old Ondina Castro De La Cruz, were also killed.
Six other people, ranging in age from 4 years old to 55, were also hurt in the crash at Route 20A and Maxon Road in Sheldon, a small town about 30 miles southeast of Buffalo.
Investigators say the family of nine was heading west on Route 20A when their Kia Sedona minivan was T-boned by a Dodge Ram driven by 20-year-old Richard Sawicki of Lackawanna, New York. Authorities say that Sawicki's truck had blown through a stop sign just before the wreck.
Authorities say that not everyone in the Sedona -- which was only intended to seat seven people -- was wearing a seatbelt and none of the three 4-year olds onboard had car seats. De La Cruz and Brito-Castro were ejected and pronounced dead at the scene; Hernandez had head injuries and died at a hospital.
The two surviving 4-year-olds, two other children, ages 10 and 14; a 26-year-old woman; and a 55-year-old man were all taken to the hospital with varying injuries. The 55-year-old was later released, but everyone else in the Sedona is still at the hospital.
"Anytime a child is involved - and in this case, we had five - it pulls at you," Wyoming County Sheriff Gregory Rudolph told The Daily News of Batavia. "It's a tragedy."
Sawicki, meanwhile, was taken to the hospital and was later released. He's now facing vehicular homicide, DWI and reckless driving charges.
"That guy should pay for what he did," said Nelson Nunez, the family's upstairs neighbor. "If you drink, don't drive."
Audio from the emergency dispatcher paints a harrowing picture of the scene police came across. "I have an MVA at 20A and Maxon Road…there are people laying in the roadway," the dispatcher says. An officer replies: "Gonna have to get Mercy Flight on standby… I got a least 5 to 6 people .. infants … down."
Sawicki is being held in lieu of $200,000 bond. Messages were left at his lawyer's office and possible phone numbers for his Lackawanna home. Sawicki is due back in court June 10.