Couple killed by suspected drunk driver near Chowchilla identified

MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Family members are speaking out for the first time since a former Marine and his girlfriend were killed by a suspected drunk driver near Chowchilla on Friday. They also have a message for the bar that served the man shortly before the deadly wreck.

Relatives have identified the victims as Juan Barragan, 28, and his girlfriend, Vanessa Tapetillo, 28. California Highway Patrol officers say Bruce Erickson, 65, was drunk when his truck flew through the air and landed on their pickup.

Family members say the victims were on their way to a relative's graduation when they were killed in the crash. Some relatives are saying it's the bar that served the suspect that should be held responsible.

Twenty-eight years old and just getting started; that's how one cousin remembers veteran Juan Barragan before he was killed.

"A great man, very generous, funny," said Adilene Valencia, Barragan's cousin.

Valencia says the former Marine served two tours in Iraq.

"And even then came home and was still that guy that everybody wanted to be around," she said.

But his legacy will now live on through photos and memories because Barragan and his girlfriend, Vanessa Tapetillo, died in a suspected drunk driving accident.

Bruce Erickson is accused of getting behind the wheel and crashing into them. Investigators say Erickson was drinking at Farnesi's Steakhouse and Coffee Shop before the crash.

"An establishment that is allowing people to get behind the wheel like that; there's just no excuse for it," said Valencia.

Employees at Farnesi's didn't want to talk with us, but Jeff Hough, owner of Club Legends in Fresno, says it can be tough to regulate drunk customers.

"Sometimes they just walked in and they literally had one drink. But they've been elsewhere drinking, and you don't know that," he said.

But bartenders can be held responsible for overserving, and Barragan's family says they plan to pursue legal action against Farnesi's.

Before the crash, Valencia says her late cousin had just bought a house with Tapetillo, and he was getting ready to start studying full time to get a degree. It's the American dream Barragan fought for but won't get to live in this lifetime.

The CHP says in addition to DUI charges the suspect is facing two charges of gross vehicular manslaughter.

If you would like to donate to the Vanessa Tapetillo memorial fund, click here.
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