Lots of people are still trying to figure out what has happened as tragedy struck on a Delaware highway, as a terrible car crash took the lives of five of the six Trinidad family members including all four daughters.
The father, Audie Trinidad, 61, and his daughters Kaitlyn, 20, Danna, 17, and 14-year-old twins Allison and Melissa were killed on Friday when a Ford F-350 pickup truck change direction out of its lane on State Route 1 and crossed the green midpoint into oncoming traffic, striking the family’s minivan.
Mary Rose Ballocanag, Trinidad’s 53-year-old wife and mother of their children, was in the passenger seat and survived. She remained in serious condition at a Delaware hospital on Saturday.
Devastated relatives have gathered on Saturday at the family’s Teaneck home to process the tragic news. The tragedy has shocked this town of 40,000, where the family was tightly woven into the community. Mr. Trinidad was an usher at his church. His daughters were volleyball players. The family was active in the Filipino American Society of Teaneck.
A mile and a half from the Roman Catholic parish, on a quiet residential street sheltered by tall maple trees, was a memorial of flowers, teddy bears and balloons fanned across the front lawn of the Trinidads home. A painting of the family portrayed as angelic figures with halos sat on the porch.
Daniel Trinidad, 59, Audie Trinidad’s brother, stood on the porch on Sunday afternoon greeting a steady march past of visitors and well-wishers, many of them strangers, in a continuation of a community response that has left him enthralled
Trinidad and Ballocanag both came to America from the Philippines more than 30 years ago. Trinidad served seven years in the U.S. Navy and became a postal worker.
Their four daughters, Kaitlyn, 20; Danna, 17; and 13-year-old twins, Melissa and Allison, attended school in Teaneck.
The family was identified by Audie Trinidad’s brother, Danny, who arrived in Teaneck on Saturday from his home in North Miami Beach, Florida.
“How do you bury five people at the same time?” asked Danny Trinidad. “This is like a tragedy a hundred times over.”
Danny Trinidad said Saturday that he was planning to head to the hospital in Delaware where Mary Rose was taken and was recovering from surgery. She has broken ribs, arms and legs, Trinidad said.
Trinidad said the family was coming back from a vacation when the crash happened. It’s believed they were vacationing in Ocean City, Maryland.
Audie Trinidad was driving a 1999 Toyota Sienna minivan north on Highway 1 near Townsend, Delaware, when it collided with a Ford F-350, driven by a 44-year-old Maryland man, Delaware State Police said in a press release.
An off-duty firefighter who witnessed the crash and tried to help the victims said the utility truck had crossed the median and struck another car before the family’s minivan plowed into its side. Larry DuHadaway, 43, a firefighter in Maryland and Delaware, was driving his family to the beach in Rehoboth, Del., when he saw a truck ahead of him suddenly crossing the median into oncoming traffic. After striking a white car, the truck was T-boned by the van carrying the Trinidads, he said.
“I’ve been in the fire service for 28 years, and that was the worst that I’ve been on, let alone witnessed,” he said.
Danny Trinidad said he last spoke to his brother on Father’s Day. He received a photo of the family eating blue crab on July 4.
He got the call about the accident late Friday, he said.
“When you get a call at 12 midnight, it can’t be good,” he said.
During the homily at the 11:30 a.m. Mass at St. Anastasia, the service the Trinidad family regularly attended, the congregation rose and each person passed by the family’s pew, many with arms around one another, some in tears.
“It’s hard,” said Kevin Regan, a deacon at the church who delivered the homily. “They’re having a very difficult time. We have a very large Philippine community. They all are active, very active. And as you can see from this 11:30 Mass, there are people honoring their family. It’s going to be a tough, long week.
On Saturday more than 200 students, parents, family members and friends gathered at Votee Park. The vigil had been planned by friends of the Trinidad children, who posted on Facebook and Instagram.
The memorial began with a prayer and song, as the tender chorus of “Amazing Grace” mixed with sorrowful sobs as neighbors and friends of the children shared memories.
“The twins were my bestest friends since preschool,” said one young woman who didn’t give her name as she spoke. “We used to hang out since we were 3 years old. And to see them leave without saying goodbye is the worst experience in my life.”
Support has poured in from around the state and the country. Gov. Philip D. Murphy, Representative Josh Gottheimer and local officials sent statements of support and grief on Saturday. A GoFundMe campaign set up by Linda Douglas, a friend of the family, to help Mary Rose Trinidad, had raised more than $138,000, soaring past the initial goal of $10,000.
Mr. Trinidad said the family’s first priority is to help his sister-in-law. Family members were also preparing to travel to Delaware on Monday to make funeral arrangements.
Outside the family’s home, the same photograph that was taped to their church pew was hanging outside the front door. Mr. Trinidad said it was the last picture taken of the family. They had stopped for lunch on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, enjoying crabs and French fries at a roadside stand, just before the crash.