Wreck kills 5; GV man held
Stephen Scharosch’s Grass Valley neighbor Jack Skeahan said, “Steve loved his cars and he was real proud of that Mustang,” as newspeople gathered in front of their homes Tuesday.
The retired firefighter’s 1989 red Mustang sheared in half Monday night in a head-on crash near Reno, killing five members of a Utah family, four of them children 9 months to 7 years of age.
Scharosch, 51, was driving the wrong way on Interstate 80 at Wadsworth, Nev., about 20 miles east of Reno, and under the influence when the wreck occurred just before 9 p.m., the Nevada Highway Patrol said.
Scharosch was being held on a $140,000 bail at the Washoe County Jail on five counts of driving under the influence causing death and two counts of DUI causing substantial bodily harm. He was slightly injured in the crash and is scheduled for an initial appearance today in Reno Justice Court, authorities said .
”You have pretty much an entire family that has been wiped out by a (suspected) drunken driver,” Nevada Highway Trooper Pat McGill said.
”This is the worst crash I’ve seen in 21 years. … He wasn’t being real cooperative” Monday night at the scene, McGill added.
Another neighbor said Scharosch used to work as a civilian firefighter for the U.S. Navy in the Los Angeles area before he retired. McGill said his Mustang bore a firefighter’s license plate. A person who answered the phone at the Scharosch home Tuesday did not want to confirm his firefighter status and did not offer any more information.
The Meza-Arriaga family was returning to West Jordan, Utah, from a 50th wedding anniversary celebration in San Jose in their white Chevrolet Venture Minivan when the fatal crash occurred.
Driver Fernando Meza-Arriaga, 31, sustained minor injuries. His daughter, Alejandra, 7, and two sons, Tito, 3, and Marco, 9 months, died at the scene. His wife, Maria Avelar-Mojarro, 29, remained hospitalized in critical condition at Washoe Medical Center in Reno.
Gloria Meza-Arriaga, 38, the driver’s sister, also died at the scene. Her 4-year-old daughter, Gloria Destiny Vasquez, died a few hours after the crash at a Reno hospital. Another daughter, 2-year-old Liliana Vasquez, suffered a severe head injury and was clinging to life at the Reno hospital, McGill said.
Patti Kelley, an emergency room nurse from Florida who was one of the first motorists on the scene Monday night, described the horror.
”The debris from the cars was just spread all over, then they started finding bodies that were just scattered,” Kelley told KTVN-TV in Reno.
She described how the father, Meza-Arriaga, worked to try to save his wife’s life.
”He helped her out of the car and laid her on the blanket. She was obviously in a lot of pain. He would bring the (dead) children to her and put them on the blanket,” she said.
None of the eight family members was wearing safety belts, McGill said.
”There was a child restraint seat in the van. But if it was used it was probably used improperly because the child was ejected,” he said.
McGill said it’s hard to say whether the victims would have survived had they been using safety belts. ”They would have had a shot, anyway,” he added.
Another van carrying a Fallon family was struck by debris from the wreck.
Robert S. Collins Jr., 28, his wife, Jamie, 27, and their three children ages 8, 3 and 2 months, were treated and released, the patrol said.
The wreck closed part of the interstate for nearly 10 hours.
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