Fatal Riverdale crash prompts intersection changes

FRESNO, Calif.

Esmeralda Saucedo and her four children died at a Riverdale intersection on Saturday night after a driver ran a stop sign and then collided into their SUV, which burst into flames.

California Highway Patrol officers say the driver, 41-year-old Juana Bejarano, did not have a license and could face a vehicular manslaughter charge.

For the tight-knit Riverdale community, the intersection where Marks meets Excelsior is a place filled with heartbreak.

"I'm a mom, and I don't believe that anyone should have to endure this kind of pain," said Lori Pierce.

The CHP says Bejarano ran a stop sign before the collision, but neighbors believe the intersection was also to blame.

"People travel through here 55–70 miles an hour. I have been here mowing the yard and have cars flying through here and barely miss me and my son. People get out here in the country and it's easy to get tunnel vision," said Robert Pierce.

Within a week, Fresno and Kings County road crews plan to install LED lights on stop signs.

"Any time there is a fatal it is county policy to do a traffic study just to see if we can improve the intersection," said Bob Palacios with Fresno County's Road Maintenance and Operations.

County records show five accidents at the intersection over the past five years. This was the first fatal crash during that time. According to the CHP, this is the second deadly incident at the same intersection in the past 14 years.

Some neighbors told Action News they want the intersection to be a four-way stop. But county workers say they'll have to study the intersection more in order for that to happen.

Meanwhile, Joe Saucedo's hand is bandaged from trying to save his wife and four children. He'd been following his family in another vehicle.

Saucedo was too emotional to talk on camera, but expressed gratitude for the support the Riverdale community was providing.

He met with Riverdale School Superintendent Pete Faragia, who told Action News the district is bringing in counselors to help the victims' classmates deal with the loss. Jada was in first grade and Breanna in sixth.

"They've been in the classrooms. They are on our campuses to work with our kids and staff, and our community has really rallied around this family, this tragedy," said Faragia. "And you know as a school community we will be there in any way we can to help the family and help all of our students and staff through this event."

Crosses were added to the memorial at the scene of the accident, and friends of the victims continue to visit the site.

In Spanish, Anna Quintana told us she's known the Saucedos for 15 years. She says the loss is too emotional to put into words.

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