The candles are staying lit day and night at the large makeshift street memorial for 18-month-old Gerardo Sebastian Chavez, killed on Sunday, Oct. 17, in a traffic accident where one of the vehicles ended up on the sidewalk where he sat in his stroller.

Gerardo Sebastian Chavez

The memorial, at the site of the accident on the corner of Langdon Avenue and Nordhoff Street in North Hills, has grown to be one of the largest local expressions of public sympathy — there is a massive amount of flowers,  numerous stuffed animals, toys, artwork drawn by other children, cards and balloons. 

The San Fernando Valley community has poured out an abundance of sympathy for the toddler and his young mother.  

Every day since the accident, people have come to the sidewalk site to pray and look at the child’s photos. They read the many messages to the family and often leave a gift themselves.  

On that tragic day,  Ana Morales, the toddler’s mother, cried out in Spanish at the site of the accident, asking for the hit-and-run driver turn himself in. A priest from the nearby church offered a prayer. 

Her appeal was answered.  

Police confirmed to the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol newspaper that the driver of the second vehicle — who initially fled the scene — did turn himself into LAPD Valley Division.

“The driver of the second vehicle did turn himself in last Sunday afternoon.  He is identified as Arlodo Reyes,” said Detective Lisset Fuentes.

M. Terry/SFVS
The street memorial for Gerardo Sebastian Chavez in North Hills.

“Charges are pending,” she said.

The driver of the first car, who was not identified, stayed at the scene until paramedics arrived, authorities said.

There was initial confusion with reports of another motorist who also turned himself in on Sunday, but police immediately reported he was not connected to the North Hills accident and a 50,000 dollar reward for information was issued.   

It Was an Ordinary Sunday

On what began as a regular early Sunday morning, Gerardo’s grandfather, Alfredo Morales, had set up his tamales stand as he had done so many times before, selling to parishioners as they walked to and from the nearby Our Lady of Peace Catholic church. Morales said he has set up his stand at that location for the past 20 years.  

Gerardo was in his stroller on the sidewalk near the stand.

“I had him right next to me,“ Morales said. He didn’t feel he had any cause for worry — he felt his grandson was safe.

But a silver Honda CRV traveling west on Nordhoff Street tried to turn left onto Langdon Avenue and collided with a gray Toyota Camry, traveling east. 

It’s reported that the driver of the CRV (the first car) hit the wrong pedal and accelerated instead of braking after the two cars collided and careened onto the sidewalk, striking the toddler, pinning him and his stroller against a brick wall.

The driver of the Camry did not stop, Fuentes said. Police classified the crash as a hit-and-run.

Paramedics were called at 7:35 a.m. and transported the child to the hospital. But he didn’t survive the accident.  

Fuentes said information has not been released that indicates whether either driver was speeding or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“The investigation is still fluid,” she said. 

Go Fund Me Page Set Up

The public has responded quickly to donate money soon after the fundraising site was set up.  

The organizer of the page, Araceli Morales asked for both prayers and donations for Gerardo’s family. She wrote: 

“Sebastian was in critical condition and unfortunately passed due to his injuries. He was such an amazing, sweet, and caring boy who truly brightened the lives of his family and those around him every day. He was the sweetest, happiest baby who had such a bright future ahead of him. His sweet smile and character was enough to light up any room.”

They have exceeded their goal, raising more than $45,000, but indicated they will keep donations open to further support the family. 

“Thank you all for your generous donations. It truly means the world to us. Although we have reached our goal, we will keep donations open in order to further support the Morales family during this difficult time. All new donations will go towards the mother and grandmother of baby Sebastian in order to allow them to grieve in peace. And for any expenses they may face during this difficult time.”

While the family has extended its gratitude, Gerardo’s mother expressed what is often said about losing a child. 

“It’s a pain that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. … No amount of money will bring back my baby,” she said.

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