Mother and son survivors of Nevada crash released from hospital

Ruben Fernandez, 15, left, and his brother Anthony, 18, mourn the loss of their father Leonardo Fernandez on the front steps of his home in East Los Angeles.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

A mother and son from Los Angeles who were in a van during a Nevada car crash that killed five others have been released from the hospital, authorities said Thursday.

Maria Cardenas, 40, and her son Eddie Sandoval, 15, were released Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, said Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Loy Hixson.

The two were part of a group headed home from Denver, where they had visited Cardenas’ boyfriend’s father, Elijia Fernandez Sr., who is ill.


Cardenas’ 13-year-old daughter, Angela, was killed in the crash, as was Cardenas’ boyfriend, Leonardo Fernandez-Avila, and his brothers Genaro and Raudel.

A relative said the Fernandez Foundation fund was established at Bank of America to help pay for the funerals. Angela Cardenas’ friends are planning to hold a car wash over the weekend in Pico Rivera to raise money.

Authorities say the group’s van was rear-ended about 3 a.m. Saturday on Interstate 15 about 30 miles south of Mesquite, Nev.

The driver of the vehicle that hit them, Jean Soriano, 18, of Orange County, will be arraigned Wednesday. Soriano and his 23-year-old male passenger suffered only minor injuries.

Soriano is being held at the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas in lieu of $3.5-million bail.

He was arrested on seven counts of suspicion of driving drunk and killing five people and seriously injuring two others. He also was cited for driving without a license.


According to an arrest report, Soriano told a Nevada Highway Patrol deputy he had been drinking Budweisers before the crash and that he was heading to Las Vegas after visiting relatives in Utah. Several beer bottles were found in his car, police said.

Soriano was born in Mission Viejo, according to law enforcement officials.

Soriano escaped on March 1 from the Youth Guidance Center in Santa Ana, which is operated by the county’s probation department, a county official and public documents confirm.

The 80-bed facility keeps 60 beds for males and 20 for females and treats offenders from 13 to 20 years old. It offers two main programs, for drug and alcohol abusers.

Participants are required to attend Rio Contiguo High School as part of a mandatory academic program. It was unclear what school Soriano attended previously. A Capistrano Unified School District official said Soriano was a student in their district until 2010.

Details of how he escaped and what efforts the department took to locate him were unknown.

At least one Orange County supervisor said he was furious that the probation department had not notified the board about the connection until Monday, two days after the fatal crash.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer also requested an investigation into the matter.

“I was a prosecutor, I was a police officer and I’ve dedicated my professional career to stop drunk driving incidents,” Spitzer said. “And to find out that my own county had an escaped juvenile and we’re notified [two] days later after he killed five people, yeah, of course I’m outraged.”


The email notification of Soriano’s fugitive status was sent to the chief executive officer Monday at 12:14 p.m. by the county’s spokesman on behalf of Chief Probation Officer Steve Sentman whose department oversees the center.

The chief executive officer forwarded the email an hour later to staff members of the Board of Supervisors, according to email records obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

But by Wednesday, some of the supervisors hadn’t seen the email. Spitzer says he planned to address the notification process and has sent more than a dozen questions to Sentman related to Soriano’s case.

He asked why the board wasn’t notified immediately after the March 1 escape and what methods the department took to locate Soriano.

“When things like this happen, it leads to a series of questions,” Spitzer said. “The Board of Supervisors and the public have the right to know what efforts the department took to locate this suspect immediately after he walked away from the juvenile facility.”



Missing hiker might have hurt ankle; officials ramp up search

Teen accused in fatal DUI escaped from substance abuse center

Brian Banks has chance to ‘live out his dream,’ Atlanta Falcons GM says