Father, 2 Children by Lockhart, TX, Killed in Van-SUV Crash

The Who:

Date: 1/23/14.
Fatalities: 3.
Who: Joe Anthony Salas-Castro, 29, Joe Anthony Salas, 9, and Jayden Joshua Salas, 4.
Injuries: Jazalynn Nicole Salas, 2 (serious, expected to recover). Enrique Alvarez, 35 (not-life threatening).

Where: Near FM 1185 and Highway 183, N of Lockhart, TX.
Vehicles: Maroon GMC Jimmy, FedEx Van.
Seat Belts: No (3 fatalities). Yes (Jazalynn).
Impact Location: Driver’s side of Jimmy.

Human element: Joe and his two sons died. One son was in the 4th grade, while the other was a preschooler. They are survived by Jazalynn and Frances Lopez, the partner of Salas-Castro and mother of the three children.

The How:

Joe was driving northbound on Highway 183. Alvarez, meanwhile, was driving eastbound, and did not stop at a flashing red light. As a result, he T-boned the Jimmy heading through the intersection. Both vehicles experienced rollovers due to the impact, with the Jimmy rolling multiple times. Jayden, 4, in the rear passenger seat, was not wearing a seat belt, and was thrown from the vehicle during the rollover, and died at the scene. Joe and Joe Jr. sat in the front seats of the vehicle. Neither were wearing seat belts, and both died at the scene. Jazalynn was in a car seat in the back of the vehicle, and was removed by witnesses.

The Why:

Risk factors: Vehicle did not yield at intersection, lack of seat belt use, lighter vehicle in collision, lack of side airbags.

Protective factors: Car seat usage in 2 year old.

Vehicle analysis: The collision occurred because the Fedex driver did not yield the right of way. However, the deaths most likely occurred because none of the deceased wore seat belts. One child was thrown from the vehicle, while the others likely suffered blunt force trauma due to collisions with the inside of the vehicle during the rollovers. The only survivor in the Jimmy was the only individual properly restrained, the 2 year old. She was likely restrained in a car seat like one of these, which ended up saving her life.

The lighter weight of the Jimmy (4,103 lbs) vs. that of the FedEx van (up to 9,500 lbs fully loaded if an E-series cargo van) placed it at a significant disadvantage in the collision, as the van weighed up to 2.3x more, placing the Jimmy occupants at up to 2.9x the force the Jimmy would have experienced in an IIHS side impact test with a 3300-lb SUV-like barrier. The high speeds of the collision, most likely at at least 55 mph, also meant the occupants of the Jimmy faced at least 3.1x the forces in the side impact test due to speed alone. Of course, the Jimmy was never tested for side impacts. However, given its age and lack of side airbags, it would almost certainly have received a poor rating.

Properly restrain everyone in every vehicle, every time. Especially the children!

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