FRESNO, Calif. -- A quick-thinking father swerved at the last second when a semi was about to hit his family head-on. He lost his life, but his wife and two young daughters survived.
The crash happened on Thursday outside Reedley at Englehart and Floral avenues. Officers say a semi-truck filled with about 38,000 pounds of frozen food failed to yield at a two-way stop sign. The semi hit a compact car, killing the driver.
Investigators say Serafin Garcia had to have known his family was in danger on Thursday when made a last second decision to try to get out of the path of the semi-truck.
"It appears from some of the physical evidence on the scene that he attempted to swerve to the right. Doing so, it broadsided the vehicle and not resulting in a head-on collision with the semi-tractor trailer," said California Highway Patrol Officer Santiago Benitez.
Doing so caused Garcia to take most of the impact. He died at the scene. His 4-year-old daughter suffered major head trauma. His wife and 1-year-old daughter were shaken up but otherwise have minor injuries.
"His little girl that was sitting behind him, she got pretty hurt. That I know of right now, she's OK, sort of. She had a couple surgeries, but It was bad; the whole driver's side was gone," said Diego Galindo, the victim's cousin.
Officers say the whole family had proper seat belts on. It's unclear how fast each car was traveling, but investigators say the semi had just picked up a load from Ruiz Foods in Dinuba. Garcia also worked at the food manufacturing plant and was dropping off his family in Orosi, then heading to work.
His cousin says Garcia was a wonderful man and father who treasured his family more than anything.
"It's horrible. Nobody would have thought anything like this, especially to somebody like him. He was just a great dude," said Galindo.
Doctors put a metal plate in the head of the 4-year-old during surgery. Her name is Angelique. She suffered a skull in the crash and a broken leg, and she will have a long road to recovery.
The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help with burial costs and medical expenses: www.gofundme.com/onuczs.
California father killed after swerving to save family in crash