“To my two amazing parents., I love you. My heart is broken. Heaven is lucky to have two angels. Till we meet again, Love Lisa”, is one of many messages surrounding a photo of a happy couple at a makeshift memorial next to a bent fence.
It is located at the corner of Branford Street and Dorrington Avenue in Arleta. People pass by slowly, taking in the visible sorrow. Skid marks are evident from the curb to the fence, where flowers and candles complete the scene. Stains from the accident scene decorate the sidewalk. The fence is severely bent inward, suggesting a tremendous impact.
Alfred Chacon, 62 and his wife Alma Alyse Chacon, 61, were heading home from a relative’s 50th birthday on Saturday, June 20, when a suspected drunk driver slammed into their car at the above-mentioned intersection.
Both died at the scene.
The Chacons will be laid to rest on Friday, July 3. A mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. at St. John Baptist de la Salle Church in Granada Hills, followed by a Life Reception at 1 p.m. at Casa Torres Banquet Hall in San Fernando. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to Guthy Jackson Charitable Foundation, www.guthyjacksonfoundation.org.
Family, Friends Staggered By The Loss
They are survived by their children Lisa and Matt, as well as a number of family members and friends who feel the pain of their passing.
“Mom and dad. You both were taken way too soon. I love you both so much. You were beloved parents, grandparents, brother and sister, friends and co-workers. I can’t even bare (sic) the thought of never being able to see you again. You will not be forgotten. Love, your son Matt. P.S. I miss you both,” reads another message on the cardboard surrounding the photo of the Chacons.
Matt told a local television station that he called his dad throughout the night of the crash and the next day to wish him a happy Father’s Day, but got no answer. When he went to his parent’s home, he found a note from the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, and learned of the awful truth.
Chacon had retired 15 years ago and volunteered at a convalescent home. His wife had recently retired and volunteered at a library where she read to children, their sons told the TV station.
“Beloved brother and sister. You spent your entire lives serving the Lord, your country, your family, your friends, your community. Your legacy will live through us,” reads another message written by Theresa on the memorial.
Arsen Panasian, a 41-year-old resident of Van Nuys, was driving the car that hit the Chacon’s vehicle. He was arrested and faces two counts of murder.
Authorities believe Panasian was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.
According to the Los Angeles Police Department, Panasian was traveling westbound on Branford Sreet in a 1999 Chevrolet Astro van when he crashed into the couple’s Toyota Camry as they were heading south on Dorrington Ave.
Firefighters managed extricate the Chacons from their car, but they would be pronounced dead at the scene. A third party was injured and transported to the hospital, reportedly in fair condition.
Holiday Weekend Enforcement
The Fourth of July holiday is one of the busiest for authorities in search of drunk drivers, especially when it falls on a weekend. Fifteen people were killed statewide in the first 30 hours of the Independence Day holiday last year, compared to nine people in 2013, according to the California Highway Patrol. Of those victims, about 40 percent were not wearing a seat belt.
Three of the deaths took place in Los Angeles County compared to one death the previous year.
Drunk driving arrests also increased, with the CHP making 747 DUI arrests, up 32 percent during the same period from 2013. More than 150 of those arrests were made in Los Angeles County.
Authorities promise added enforcement this coming weekend, knowing full well that many holiday gatherings could end in tragedy if people, who have been drinking, get behind the wheel.
If you or your friends plan to drink this holiday weekend, follow these tips:
•Arrange rides home for your friends, family, co-workers and yourself before the drinking begins.
•Identify and provide free non-alcoholic drinks or other promotional items to the Designated Driver.
•Party hosts and servers must limit drinks to your guests or patrons. Don’t serve more than one or two over several hours.
•Cut back on the amount of drinks you plan to bring to the party – and provide plenty of food.
•Leave your car keys at home, call a taxi, call a friend or family member, or use public transportation to ensure you get home safely.
•Call 911 if you see a possible drunk driver on the road; and,
•Take the car keys away from someone who is about to drive impaired and assist them in getting home safely.