Maria Rocha Gomez, also known as Josephina Gomez Rocha, died in a single vehicle accident after the car left the road and entered a local pond on Christmas day in Chilton County, Alabama, according to ABC 33/40. Authorities in Chilton County have reported that the mother died, along with her two small daughters, 7-year old Mariela Rocha Gomez and 5-year old Mariana Rocha Gomez.
AL.com has since begun reporting that there were also two more passengers in the vehicle: the driver— 33-year old Luis Alberto Cruz of Clanton— and another child whose name has not been released. Luis Alberto Cruz left the scene of the accident but was later caught in Clanton, Alabama, where he was arrested and charged with three counts of manslaughter.
Details are slim, but it is believed that alcohol may have played a role in the accident.
Law enforcement officials say between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Christmas morning, Luis Alberto Cruz was driving a 2005 Nissan Altima on Chilton County Road 54 during a thunderstorm with Maria Rocha Gomez and her three children. At some point, Cruz veered off of County Road 54, which dead ends and leads to a pond at the intersection of County Road 73.
Once the car entered the pond, it appears that Luis Alberto Cruz left the scene on foot. At the same time, one of the three children who had been a passenger in the vehicle, attempted to save his two sisters, but was unable to hold on to them. The surviving child, who is rumored to be a third grade student, left the scene to go to a nearby home to get help. The homeowners contacted authorities, who arrived a short time later.
Those involved say it was a heartbreaking scene, and that police officers were so desperate to help the girls that a few of them entered the water, in order to rescue them, as they waited for the dive team. Maria Gomez and her daughters, Mariela and Mariana Rocha Gomez, were all pronounced dead, according to Al.com.
Though not confirmed, it is believed that the passengers were returning home after a night out on Christmas Eve. It is also believed that the driver may have been intoxicated. An inspection of the vehicle indicates that none of the passengers were wearing seat belts, and the young children were not sitting in car seats, according to the Clanton Advertiser.
Chilton County Road 54, leading to the intersection where it meets County Road 73, is a long curvy road, and at night it is extremely dark. Community members have complained that the area is not well lit. On the morning of the accident, residents say that there was a dead end sign placed at the intersection.
The nature of the relationship between Luis Alberto Cruz and the children has not been clearly established, but there are indications that Cruz was Maria Gomez’ boyfriend. Local residents are saddened to hear about something so tragic during the Christmas holidays. Here are a few comments from some of them.
“That’s why he run from the wreck and went home didn’t even call police the little boy ran 1/4 mile to [neighbors] while he was running instead of saving the victims.”
“My heart is breaking into pieces I just wonder why it had to be these precious people very good hearted and great kids.”
“The child who survived this crash is a student of mine, he is a third grader. Please keep him in your prayers at this time.”
“Please everyone take a minute to pray for my friends family who lost her life along with her two daughters. She has left behind 3 beautiful boys.() My heart aches… God be with these boys (Eric,Daniel,and Oscar who tried to get his little sisters out and had them in his arms but had to let go) and give them the strength to get though this very difficult time in their life in Jesus name I pray AMEN.”
As we strive for accuracy, please check back for more details about this very tragic case.