When Pedro Correa of Costa Mesa set out Thursday morning, he thought he would be spending Thanksgiving playing baseball and eating barbecued food at a family reunion in Ventura County.
But along the way, he encountered the motorist’s nightmare come true.
As he drove along two-lane California 126 in Fillmore, he slowed along with other traffic to creep past the scene of a grisly accident.
The crumpled compact car at the side of the road looked like his brother’s.
It was his brother’s.
And inside it, two of his brothers, a sister-in-law and two cousins had died when the car collided head-on with a pickup truck that had swerved into their lane, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Correa pulled over and ran toward the wreckage.
“They wouldn’t let him get close because of how terrible it was,” said Gloria Correa of Costa Mesa, his sister-in-law. She is married to another brother, Armando. “He knew right away they were dead. They told him no one made it. . . . So he drove on because he couldn’t do anything.”
Correa arrived in Santa Paula before noon. More than 50 relatives had already gathered there, and the family baseball game was getting under way.
Correa gathered the family together and gave them the news:
Magdaleno Correa, 27, and his wife, Eva, 28, who was 6 months pregnant, were dead. So were their two cousins, Saul de la Cueva, 23, and Francisco Mejia, 34, who lived with the Correas in their house in Santa Ana. So was Fernando Correa, 20, who lived in Costa Mesa.
Magdaleno and Eva Correa had been married 2 years and were expecting their first child. They had grown up together on the ranch in Jerez, Mexico, where their families were centered.
“All the families on the ranch knew each other and a lot of them got married,” Gloria Correa said.
The Correa family was particularly close, she said, even though many of them had moved to Anaheim, Santa Ana and Santa Paula from Jerez. Magdaleno Correa managed a Costa Mesa car wash, Fernando Correa worked in a bakery, Francisco Mejia worked in a Santa Ana restaurant and Saul de la Cueva worked in an Irvine nursery.
Authorities said Friday that the driver of the pickup truck may have been drinking. Firefighters reported finding empty beer cans in the pickup’s cab. The CHP said an autopsy is being conducted to determine whether alcohol was in the blood of the driver, identified as Frank Shoults, 43, of Thousand Oaks.
Gloria Correa said her relatives’ bodies will probably be taken to Jerez for burial.