Women killed in crash at church had gone to see kids, grandkids perform

The three women killed in a crash outside a Redondo Beach Catholic church had all come to see children or grandchildren perform in the Christmas concert held there Wednesday night.

Martha Gaza’s husband and three children were struck by the car that rammed into a crowd leaving the concert at St. James Catholic Church. The 36-year-old Torrance mom died.

The crash also left two people critically injured, including a child.

“Three kids woke up today without a mommy,” church member Anna Henkel said of Gaza’s family on Thursday morning outside the church, “and that’s what’s killing me.”


Gaza’s children attend the school at St. James. Her youngest child, a kindergartner, was in critical condition Thursday, and her husband remained hospitalized, said Monica Valencia, director of media relations for the archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Also killed in the crash were Mary Ann Wilson, 81, and Saeko Matsumura, 87, both of Torrance.

Wilson’s daughter Donna, 55, sat at home Thursday near a Christmas tree hung with ornaments and tinsel and remembered decorating the tree with her parents on Saturday.

Christmas was “her special season,” John Wilson said of his wife of nearly 60 years.


Wilson was deeply religious, her daughter said, and was an active member at St. Catherine Laboure Catholic Church in Torrance, where she had many friends.

The elder Wilson, a mother of four, had a great sense of humor and a green thumb, loved to travel and was known for her handmade cards and wonderful pies. Most of all, her daughter said, she was crazy about her five grandchildren. 

Wilson attended their soccer games every weekend. And they were why she was at Wednesday night’s Christmas concert.

Wilson was the grandmother of a sixth-grader and an eighth-grader at St. James school, Valencia said, and Matsumura was the grandmother of an eighth-grader.

Matsumura’s daughter Karen Lam and Lam’s son Jasper were injured in Wednesday’s incident and are hospitalized, Valencia said.

Henkel, tears streaming down her face and coffee cup in hand, was among parishioners who gathered Thursday morning at the church to grieve.

At a light post at the site of the incident at Vincent Street and Pacific Coast Highway, a poinsettia swayed in the wind, the start of a small floral remembrance for those who died.

A woman, crying, knelt and wrapped a bouquet of pink, white and yellow flowers around the pole with gold ribbon. Suzanne Gibson did the same.


Gibson said she found out about the tragedy on Facebook on Wednesday night. She’s a choir member at St. James, where she’s worshiped since she was 6 years old. Though she did not personally know the victims, she said she was “devastated” because the church is a family.

Henkel echoed those sentiments.

“We’re going to get through this together,” she said.

For more breaking news, follow @TrevellAnderson and @smasunaga.

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