Tooele unites in grief

Memorial services held for 4 youths killed in car accident

Published: Thursday, Aug. 12 2004 9:01 a.m. MDT

Josef Aragon says goodbye to his sister Angela, who was killed in Friday's accident involving a car that held 10 teens and young adults.

Ryan Long, Deseret Morning News

In a church just miles from the tragic accident that killed four last week, family, friends and community members from all denominations joined in memorial services Wednesday.

Hundreds gathered at St. Marguerites Catholic Church in Tooele for the funeral of Angela Aragon, 16, and vigil services for Anthony Graham, 21; Brooks Martinez, 20; and his brother Eric Martinez, 16.

Many wiped away tears and held each other as scripture passages were read, prayers were given and memories were shared. Those in attendance included injured victims from the accident.

According to police, 10 teenagers and young adults piled into a five-seat Mazda 626 on Friday night. Two climbed into the car's trunk when the front and rear seats filled. No one was wearing a seat belt, and police say many of the youths had been drinking.

The car rolled over in a field three miles west of Tooele, and all 10 occupants were thrown from the car, killing three instantly. The driver died Saturday at a Salt Lake hospital.

"The tragic nature touches our entire community," said the Rev. Matthew Wixted. He said during the past couple days, at times he has felt speechless because of the early death and the pain the families have felt.

Surviving occupants included: Vanessa Aragon, 16; Vanessa Grago, 18; Francis J. Herrera, 21; Dustin Hillyard, 19; Cheyanne Johansen, 18; and Rayan Martinez, 19. All were from Tooele, except Grago, who Wixted said was visiting from New Mexico.

"Some of these kids were constantly together," said Daniel Pacheco, Graham's uncle. "The people who have lost these kids, they have also lost the kids (friends) who were at their house when they woke up. They were great supportive friends."

Not all of the youths involved in the accident were friends. Graham was the driver of the car.

"Those kids were locked out of their cars. My nephew was helping to give them a ride," Pacheco said. "They were beautiful young kids. It has left a hole in the community."

The Aragon, Graham and Martinez families released a unified statement Monday, expressing their love for the youths involved in the accident.

"We know that each individual is a good kid, and while they, like everyone else, may have made mistakes in their lives, continue to deserve our love and understanding," the statement read. "It was in the spirit of friendship and assistance that each youth made the choice to join together for a ride that was meant to take them home to their loving families."

At Aragon's funeral Wednesday morning, a letter was read from Angela's grandfather, Robert, to those attending. Robert wrote that Angela's name means "angel queen" in Spanish.

"Her parents could not have named her more appropriately," he wrote. "Her name describes her to a 'T.' We will miss our young queen."

During the evening vigil at the same church for the three men killed in the crash, family members also rose to recite poems and comment on the boys.

"Thank you all for the love and support you have given us. We are truly, truly sorry this happened. Anthony (Graham) was our pride and joy, and we're sorry that we lost him," said Kathy Archilleta, Graham's aunt. A funeral Mass for Anthony Graham, Brooks and Eric Martinez will be held today at 10 a.m. at St. Marguerites Catholic Church, 15 S. 7th Street, Tooele. In lieu of flowers, the families of the deceased youths request that donations be made in honor of each individual at any Wells Fargo Bank. Funds to assist with medical expenses of the surviving youths may be directed to each individual in care of the church.


E-mail: astowell@desnews.com and sbaghbani@desnews.com

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