MARSHALL — Family members removed furniture from a small wood-framed home on Pinehurst Street in Marshall on Tuesday as they prepared for a wake for five children killed in a Van Zandt County accident.
Federico Acuna, 35, his wife, 34-year-old Estella Torres, and her sister, Elita Torres, 24, set off Monday from Marshall with nine children for a family day at Splash Kingdom Water Park in Canton. Acuna could face charges in the accident, a state trooper said Tuesday.
But as the group traveled west on Interstate 20, a blowout on the rear passenger side tire caused the 2003 GMC Envoy to pitch to the right, leading Acuna to attempt to steer the vehicle straight, authorities said.
When emergency crews arrived, there were three dead children on an embankment and multiple injured victims.
Trooper Dark said victims were taken to Children's Hospital in Dallas, a hospital in Terrell and East Texas Medical Center in Tyler.
“This was the worst accident I have ever been out on,” the usually composed trooper said as she sobbed Monday night. “This is affecting everyone who was out there. Five kids are dead.”
Those killed in the accident were: Rosvaelia Jaimes, 13; Saideth Acuna, 6; Omar Jaimes, 7; Ulisa Acuna, 3; and Judith Jaimes, 2.
Trooper Dark said Federico Acuna was not injured, while his wife suffered injuries.
Ms. Torres remained in critical condition Tuesday at ETMC, and a 9-year-old child remained hospitalized in Children's in Dallas in stable condition, officials said. Two other children were released Tuesday from the Dallas hospital.
Mrs. Marion, who lost her husband three years ago to suicide, said she was trying to help those who held her up during her time of grief.
“We're all hurting, but these were their children, and when it comes to children, it is different,” she said. “This was supposed to be a fun trip and had been planned for a while before school was to start next week,” Mrs. Marion said. “Me and my children was going to go with them, but I had to work so I said we would go later.”
Rocio Jaimes, the children's aunt, and another woman embraced as Mrs. Jaimes cried.
Mrs. Marion said the funeral home was bringing the children's bodies to the home on Pinehurst for a private wake before their burial.
Mrs. Marion also said there was anger in the family because of the accident and the lack of car safety seats for the children.
Trooper Dark said there were no car safety seats in the mid-sized vehicle, which seats eight, and the only two people wearing a seatbelt were a 15-year-old passenger, who was uninjured, and the driver.
Because there were no car seats, Acuna, who lost two daughters, two nieces and a nephew in the accident, could face five counts of criminal negligent homicide for their deaths.
“The investigation is not complete, but potential criminal charges are being investigated to include five counts of criminal negligent homicide. It is against the law to not have children restrained and it doesn't matter if a tire blew or not. The fact is they were not properly restrained,” Trooper Dark said.
Mrs. Marion said the Jaimes-Acuna Tragedy Fund had been established at Citizens' National Bank, and donations could be made at any branch in East Texas.
As family members continued to arrive Tuesday, they embraced each other and wept.
“We are hurting in our souls,” Mrs. Marion said as she wiped tears from her eyes.