North Valley family seeks justice in deadly DUI crash that left grandparents dead

ATWATER, Calif. (KFSN) -- A close-knit North Valley family is mourning the loss of their grandparents.

The couple was killed in a crash caused by a man suspected of driving under the influence.

"My fondest memories are on the boat with them, on the lake, being on the tube rafting," said Anthony Hidalgo, the oldest grandson of Pam and Joe Juarez.

The couple was married for 38 years and were parents to six and grandparents to 15.

They loved the outdoors, camping and spending time on the lake.

That's where they headed on June 25, to Lake Tahoe for a weekend getaway.

They just needed to make a quick stop at their son's home to pick up a few things.

"They were going to be here in 20 minutes, and it was around maybe 9:20 when he talked to them, and they never showed." said Gabriela Juarez, the youngest daughter of Pam and Joe Juarez.

The California Highway Patrol says Pam, 56, and Joe, 57, were driving west on Santa Fe Avenue approaching Spaceport Entry in Atwater.

They were just minutes away from their son's house.

Officials say that's when 20-year-old King Vanga collided into the back of their car at a high rate of speed.

The Juarez's spun out and their vehicle caught fire.

Vanga overturned into a fence.

The Juarez's died at the scene.

Vanga had minor injuries was booked into the Merced County Jail for driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol and vehicular manslaughter.

"They were just incredible people. They did not deserve to die like that," said Hidalgo.

Vanga has since bailed out of jail and is expected to be arraigned on charges next week.

Family members are asking anyone who knew where Vanga was going to reach out to the Merced District Attorney's Office.

While they wait for justice, they're clinging to each other and to final conversations they had with the couple.

"A week and a half before they passed, me and Joe had a conversation and he told me how much he loved me, and how proud of me he was, as his grandson. Pam was there, too." Hidalgo said. "Thinking about that conversation now, I'm so glad we had that opportunity, but it shouldn't have been the last time I got to hear that."

The family is planning to hold a peaceful assembly outside of the Merced District Attorney's Office Friday at 8 a.m.

Anyone who would like to join is welcome.

Pam and Joe Juarez will be laid to rest in southern California on July 20.
Related topics:
merced countydui crash
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.