A driver accused of causing a deadly car crash in Meriden appeared in court Monday morning on new charges related to that crash.
Police said 29-year-old Israel Gonzalez was driving his SUV drunk when he slammed into the back of a vehicle that was stopped at a red light on Broad Street. Two small children, 8-year-old Lorenzo Cruz and 5-year-old Tatiana Cruz, were killed in the crash, and their parents and 12-year-old brother were seriously injured.
"My little niece, the 5-year-old, was singing a song to her mother," said uncle David Valentin. "The next you know she felt the impact."
Police said Gonzalez then ran from the scene and was located at his nearby house.
According to police, he's a Mexican citizen and had identification cards with a number of different names on him when he was arrested.
Investigators said Gonzalez had a blood alcohol content that was three times the legal limit.
Gonzalez faced three charges: operating a motor vehicle without a license, evading responsibility and reckless driving.
In court Monday, the reckless driving charge was dropped and new charges were added, including two counts of second-degree manslaughter, three counts of assault with a motor vehicle and operating under the influence.
He's still being held on $1 million bond.
Family members filled the courtroom wearing photos of Lorenzo and Tatiana around their necks. Their grandmother, Barbel Valentin, said she'll always count them among her 11 grandchildren.
"My daughter and my son-in-law's two little babies, they got taken from us," Valentin said. "This is a ribbon. Tatiana likes red and Lorenzo likes orange. So now this is what we have. We have this and this to keep on going because our angels up there are down here with us."
The mom, dad and brother who were all in that car during the crash have been released from the hospital and are working on their recovery.
The children's family have established a memorial fund to cover the medical cost. If you would like to help the family, you can make a donation to the Cruz and Schroder Memorial Fund.
The fund information is as follows:
Cruz and Schroder Memorial Fund
Care of David F. Cavanaugh, VP People United Bank
1310 Silas Deane Hwy.
Wethersfield, CT 06109
The funeral for Lorenzo and Tatiana is set for Thursday in Middletown, where most of the family is from.
Family members told Eyewitness News they plan on wearing the two colors on that ribbon, orange and red, to the services.
A makeshift memorial was also set up at the site of that crash on Broad and Ann streets.
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