Woman who lost brother, nephew in Fresno crash speaks out


FRESNO COUNTY, California (KSEE/KGPE) — 45-year-old Jose Castillo and his 7-year-old son Jose Castillo Jr. were killed at North Ave. and Marks after police say a pickup truck ran a stop sign Saturday night.

There were four other family members in their SUV, and the California Highway Patrol reports three of those family members suffered major injuries. 

21-year-old Jovan Cortez is behind bars facing multiple felony counts after allegedly driving while intoxicated and crashing into Castillo’s SUV, CHP says.

Authorities on scene say Cortez also had his 10-month-old baby in his truck, who wasn’t hurt. At the scene of the crash, a makeshift memorial has been set up to remember Jose Castillo and Jose Castillo Jr.

At the memorial, Janet Pimentel, Jose Sr.’s sister, and Jose Jr.’s aunt, says they all had just wrapped up a family gathering prior to the crash. She says the family gathering was like any other family gathering, and that Jose Sr. was planning on seeing their mother the following day.

“He went up to her and told her, ‘Bye, Mom. Okay, we’ll see you tomorrow, ’ like any other day.” Pimentel said. “Around ten my sister-in-law’s dad calls us and tells us that he passed away and my nephew passed away. It’s just devastating, something we didn’t expect.”

Pimentel says her brother was a farmworker and worked hard to support his family. She says her nephew was a bright young boy with who she was very close.

“Smart kid, straight A’s,” Pimentel said. “He was just outgoing, so full of joy. He had a whole life ahead of him.”

According to Fresno County Jail Records Jovan Cortez is facing two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Which in California is punishable by up to 10 years behind bars. Authorities at the scene Saturday night say this could have been avoided.  

“It’s a sad time right now that somebody decides to drink and drive,” said Sgt. Matt Radke with the California Highway Patrol. “It’s a choice that was made. This is not an accident, this is a crash that involved an innocent family that was just trying to get home.”

Pimentel also has a similar message to the community and urges people not to make the poor choices that she says led to the deaths of her brother and nephew. 

“Make better choices. I mean, life’s too short you know,” she said. “This has not only affected his family but our family is also affected too by it. You’re under the influence, just stay home.”

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