A Meriden mom driving home after a late shift at work was involved in a crash that killed her two young daughters shortly after midnight Sunday, according to family members.
Police and family identified the children as Veronica Martinez, 7, and her sister, Ivette Martinez, 4, both of Meriden, who were riding in the back seat of the car with their mother, Kayla Torres, 31, of Meriden, at the wheel. Another family member, Miguel Melendez, 35, of New Britain, was also in the car.
The girls were killed after the car crossed over the yellow center line on Middle Street near Pinebrook Terrace in Bristol and struck an oncoming car around 12:30 a.m. Sunday, according to police.
"They were innocent. They were full of life. They looked up to their mother as a single parent who took care and went above and beyond measures for her girls," said Sheena Melendez, a cousin of Torres.
Family members said they believe Torres actually swerved in an effort to avoid the oncoming car. Police are still investigating the cause of the crash and said no charges have been filed or tickets issued.
The children's mother was taken to the hospital for treatment of serious injuries and is in stable condition. Torres is still recovering at Saint Francis Hospital and is in stable condition, according to Melendez, who said Torres had recently become a nurse and works from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The family said Torres picked up her kids on the way home from work before the crash.
The children were pronounced dead shortly after being admitted to Bristol Hospital. The front-seat passenger, another family member, was airlifted by LifeStar. Family members said both surviving family members hope to be released this week.
Everyone was wearing seatbelts.
The driver and front seat passenger of the other vehicle, a Ford Windstar, were also seriously injured. Police said the driver, Michael S. Luponio, 26, of Southington, was taken to Hartford Hospital and is in stable condition and the passenger, Jonathan V. Oquendo-Cruz, 23, of Waterbury, was transported to a hopspitall in Waterbury and is in stable condition.
A third passenger, who hasn't been identified, may also have been in the Windstar but ran from the scene, police said. That possibility has angered family members, who are demanding answers.
'"You walked away from it and those babies cannot be replaced at all. There’s answers to all the questions and that person needs to come forward and answer them," Melendez said.
All surviving victims suffered injuries to the head, chest and legs.
"All (Torres) has is memories of that car ride home from work after working a hard day and going to pick up her babies," Melendez said.
The family has started a GoFundMe page to help with the funeral expenses for the girls.
The Bristol Police Serious Traffic Accident Reconstruction Team is investigating the crash. Anyone with information is urged to contact police at 860-584-3033.