Crash victims had ties to local church

Darleene Barrientos

The parishioners of United Community Church knew something was

terribly wrong when two of their children -- Noemy and Gerardo Tellez

-- were not waiting to be picked up Sunday morning.

Noemy, 8, and Gerardo, 5, were riding with their father, Juan

Tellez, just after 2 a.m. Nov. 5 on the Ronald Reagan (118) Freeway

in Granada Hills when a 2003 Chevrolet Corvette approached them from

behind at more than 100 mph. According to police, Juan Tellez tried

to move to the right to allow the Corvette to pass, but the Corvette

moved to the right also, resulting in a fiery crash that left a

quarter-mile of debris across all the westbound lanes of the freeway.

Police said the family, who recently moved to Simi Valley, was

killed on impact.

Timothy Whelan of La Canada Flintridge, who reportedly was driving

the Corvette, was charged Friday with three counts of murder, one

count of driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury, and

one count of driving with a blood alcohol content of more than 0.08%

and causing injury. Whelan was being held without bail Thursday.

With the loss of two of their children, United Community Church

parishioners are trying to raise money to help the remaining family

members cover funeral expenses.

Lonnie Brown, who recently retired from the church's children and

youth ministry office, said Noemy and Gerardo first came to the

church a year ago as a part of their outreach to children in the Echo

Park area, where the Tellez family used to live. One teacher, Alice

Stangl, was taking the loss particularly hard, Brown said.

"[Alice] was the one who started bringing the children in from

Echo Park. She is taking this really horribly -- she saw them every

day. She'd go over to their house, she'd have impromptu Bible studies

with them," Brown said. "Although we know they're in heaven, we're

taking it very hard."

Los Angeles County Coroner's officials have not yet identified the

victims of the crash, but have confirmed that they received the

dental records of Juan Tellez.

A viewing will be from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Groman Mortuary,

830 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles. A memorial service will be held

a week later, on Nov. 22, at United Community Church, 333 E. Colorado

St. The service will begin at 2 p.m.

Donations can be sent to the Tellez family at 1916 Vestal Ave.,

Los Angeles, CA 90026, attention Teresa Tellez. Donations can also be

sent to the mortuary.

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