Neighbors who witnessed three 13-year-old trick-or-treaters being killed by a hit-and-run driver in Santa Ana on Halloween described a collision so violent that they initially thought it was staged.
Police are looking for the driver and a passenger who left a Honda SUV in a nearby Big Lots parking lot and fled the scene after striking the girls, who were in a crosswalk on Fairhaven Avenue across from Fairhaven Elementary School.
Friends and family identified the girls as twins Lexi and Lexandra Perez and their friend Andrea Gonzalez. All three lived in a nearby apartment complex.
Clarissa Cisneros, 17, who lives on Fairhaven Avenue, was putting up Halloween decorations when she heard a man screaming and then a bang. Bodies flew in the air as a black SUV sped away.
Cisneros thought they were dummies and it was a fake scene, but when she walked up to one of the bodies, pushing the hair back to see the face, she realized the girl was real.
“I knew she was dead. Her eyes were closed. She looked peaceful,” Cisneros said.
Cisneros found some glow sticks and started directing cars away from the bodies. Meanwhile, her brother tended to the victims.
By early afternoon Saturday, about 70 people were gathered at a curbside memorial, leaving candles, bouquets and stuffed toys.
Alex Cervantes, who lives across from Fairhaven Elementary, said he heard a loud crashing sound Friday evening. His 17-year-old daughter saw what she thought were three dolls thrown out of a vehicle, flying at least 100 feet.
“We didn’t think it was real,” Cervantes said.
But he soon realized the bodies on the ground were people. He saw a green SUV-type vehicle speed away and ran after it but couldn’t catch up.
He returned to the scene and tried to help the girls, but they had no pulses.
At one point, Cervantes said he pictured his own children on the ground and became emotional.
“They cross here,” he said. “Some of them go to this school.”
All of the girls were wearing costumes with black leggings and dark clothing, Cervantes said.
Lourdes Castrejon, 46, who lives in the same apartment complex as the twins, said the girls were inseparable and known in the neighborhood as “las muñequitas” -- the dolls.
“I saw them grow up,” she said.
Castrejon, who brought pink roses for the memorial, wiped tears from her eyes while she spoke about them. She said they were well-mannered and always said “good day” in English and Spanish.
Friends and family recalled Andrea Gonzalez as a teenager who liked to bake cookies and cakes and preferred alternative rock. She admired Batman, they said, but took to the streets this Halloween in a skeleton costume.
Her brother, Josafat Gonzalez, 21, said their mother, who has heart problems, was so distraught she fainted in a policeman’s arms.
Santiago Morales, 13, said he and Andrea had dated for five months and had known each other since first grade.
“She was always energetic and kind,” Morales said. “She was caring. She was sweet.”
At one point, he said, Andrea crafted a love poem, describing how she felt for him by using candy wrappers.
Morales, who attached heart-shaped balloons on a vase with red flowers to add to the impromptu memorial, wore one of two pieces of a heart-shaped necklace. Andrea had worn the other half, he said.