by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
WINCHESTER – Ariel Pagaspas still can’t believe that his sister and her family are gone.
“I am doing okay,” he said to the Asian Journal. “I need to be strong and collect myself. It’s physically draining. I’m the only family here. Everyone is in the Philippines.”
On Sunday, June 29, Pagaspas younger sister, 36-year-old Maribeth San Agustin, her 48-year-old husband Andres San Agustin, and their four year-old son Angelo, were coming home from a birthday party near Hemet when a truck driving on the other side of the road crossed over to the opposite lane and crashed head-on into the family’s car.
Reports and eyewitnesses say that the truck was racing with another vehicle moments before the accident happened. The truck was driving on a single lane when it crossed the double yellow line to try and overtake the other car.
The driver of the truck fled the scene. He/ she jumped into another vehicle, allegedly the same vehicle the person was racing against. Alcohol may have been involved, according to Pagaspas.
The California Highway Patrol has one of the suspects in custody, according to Pagaspas. The CHP has not released their names.
Maribeth and her husband, Andres, died on the scene, said
Pagaspas. Their four-year-old son was rushed to Rancho Springs Medical Center and lived for a few more hours before succumbing to the injuries.
Pagaspas recalls that fateful night.
He said family friends were worried when Maribeth did not return their calls that night.
It was unlike her to not return calls.
They called the police. They called the local hospital. Hospital officials said that an Asian boy had been carted in.
“That’s when we found out,” he said.
Pagaspas, a Los Angeles resident, said he remembers driving in the middle of the night over 100-miles-per-hour to the Murrieta hospital.
“My nephew was just being carted off to the coroner’s office when I got there,” he remembers.
“I confirmed their deaths.”
He said his sister and her husband’s bodies were so badly injured that he is deciding against having an open casket.
Pagaspas said the worst part he had to endure was telling his family back home in the Philippines of the news.
He admits he only calls home once a month. So when he picked up the phone and heard the excitement in his mother’s voice just to hear his voice, he just blurted it out.
“They are dead,” he recalls saying. “I just told them right there that they are gone, that she [Maribeth] and her family got into a car crash.”
“My mom started crying. My dad was in pain. They’ve never really experienced death. I just told them we’re trying to get more information.” He couldn’t talk to them again for days. The pain of hearing them cry over the phone was too unbearable.
If it appears that Pagaspas is being the strong one in the family, it’s because he has no choice.
“No one is going to take care of this – the mortuary, the memorial, the flight,” he said. “I don’t have a choice. I’m representing my side of the family. I have no choice but to be strong. There are days when I only get two hours or three hours of sleep. When I do go to sleep I wake up and I’m wide-awake thinking of things to do.”
Pagaspas said that Maribeth was his favorite sibling. Besides
Maribeth, he also has a younger brother. Their family is originally from Rizal, Philippines. The two had lived together briefly while she was studying education at the Philippine Normal College. Maribeth was a loving person, he said.
“She was so selfless,” he recalls. “She always wanted to please everyone around her. She would keep negative things to herself. She was very positive. She loved her family. She had friends all around the neighborhood.”
He said that his brother-in-law was a dedicated family man and husband. Andres San Agustin was a former Navy Military first-class hospital corpsman. He served with the 1st Medical Logistics Company, 1st Supply Battalion, and 1st Marine Logistics Group.
There will be a full military memorial for the family this week at the Eternal Hills Memorial Park in Oceanside. The bodies will then be flown for burial in the Philippines.
Pagaspas said that the only positive, if there is a positive note, about this is that his sister and her family are all together.
“I think that’s the only positive thing,” he said. “They are together in heaven.”