Jennie Monreal, Josephine Contreras and Delores Rodriguez were all wearing their seat belts, and in a car going the speed limit. But investigators say it didn't matter when a drunk driver in a minivan hit them head-on.
Elizabeth Rodriguez is in fair condition at Community Regional Medical Center. She was the driver. Officers say the drunk driver had three DUIs within the past 3 years, including the fatal crash Saturday.
Investigators say Tranquilino Figueroa's blood alcohol was far above the legal limit Saturday when he slammed into a Toyota Yaris head-on, killing three sisters and injuring a fourth.
Action News has learned Figueroa missed a court appearance Friday on his second DUI. He was scheduled in court just one day before CHP officers say he was drinking again and driving on a suspended license.
"Obviously we have a pretty good idea that he has a drinking problem which probably led up to this because of his prior convictions," Dave Paris with the California Highway Patrol said.
Sergio Cortes is Figueroa's stepson. He says his family is also devastated about what's happened
"It's been very hard because we didn't expect this to happen and the only way that we're coping, I'm coping is that through time that wounds do heal," Cortes said.
Cortes knows that will take a long time. He doesn't know much about the circumstances surrounding the crash; only that Figueroa left home a short time before the collision. The suspect lives a half mile away from Belmont and McCall. Family members say they do not know where he was headed when he slammed into two cars.
"We are all still in shock. We are all still recovering from what has happened, and we just ask people to pray for both of the families involved, especially pray for the ones that lost their loved ones," Cortes said.
The only survivor in the Toyota was the driver, Elizabeth Rodriguez. Officers say she saw the minivan headed toward her and tried to swerve to avoid it but couldn't. The coroner says her sisters, Jennie Monreal, Josephine Contreras and Delores Rodriguez all died of internal injuries from the trauma caused by the impact.
"What we're interested in is where he was drinking, who he was drinking with him, was he at a particular establishment," Paris said.
The suspect is in fair condition at CRMC. He underwent surgery for a broken hip. A CHP officer is by his side since he is under arrest. Investigators plan to charge him with three counts of second degree murder.