SPRINGFIELD, Tenn. (WTVF) — A serious hit and run crash left family members fighting for their lives in the hospital.
Police say a reckless driver crashed into an SUV carrying eight passengers. The driver walked away from the scene before law enforcement arrived, leaving victims fighting to survive and a community in shock.
One of the victims of the crash was 13-year-old Gabe Barrera Jr., a beloved student known for his infectious smile and vibrant personality.
Joshua Hinerman, the bus driver who drove Barrera and his cousin Santos Santay, 22, as part of his school route, expressed his disbelief and sorrow at the devastating turn of events.
"Just jovial young men, smiles that would light up the world, and any room that they walked into. Just utter shock... my spirit just sunk, not knowing what the outcome was going to be," Hinerman said.
According to the preliminary investigation, the incident occurred on Baker Station Road when the driver of a 2014 Nissan Murano ran a stop sign and collided with the family's Toyota Highlander.
Barrera and Santay suffered severe injuries and were immediately rushed to nearby hospitals, where they continued their courageous fight for survival. Santay is currently in the process of recovery. Barrera has lost all brain function and is on monitors, since the family plans to donate his organs.
The remaining passengers, ages 9, 10, 21, 41, and 37 (including two 9-year-olds), sustained non-life-threatening injuries and are receiving medical treatment for their wounds. The local community has rallied around the affected families, offering prayers, support, and donations to help them through this unimaginably difficult time.
Hinerman said there are ongoing efforts to provide assistance and help with the families' financial burdens.
"We're trying to work with the United Way and COPE, and some other folks reached out to some of the ministers in the community to see if they can get some assistance with utility bills. These are the things that you worry about," Hinerman said.
As the community awaits justice for the victims and seeks solace in each other, the families of Barreraand Santay have set up GoFundMe accounts to help with medical expenses and day-to-day costs they now face.
Investigators from the Fatal Crash Unit are tirelessly working to gather evidence and are urging anyone with information to come forward and assist with the investigation. Those who possess relevant details are urged to contact Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463.