Trip to Galveston ends tragically for Brownsville family

The passenger van involved in a three-vehicle crash Saturday, July 20, 2019, that left five dead and seven injured sits on U.S. 59 in South Texas. Multiple people traveling in the passenger van were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. Seven people total were injured. (Shelby Miller/The Victoria Advocate via AP)

Both parents in one Brownsville family and the father and two children in another died in a head-on crash over the weekend on Highway 59 near Victoria when their van crossed the grassy median and slammed into a pickup truck headed in the opposite direction.

The accident involved three vehicles. The van’s driver and four of its passengers, all from Brownsville, were killed, Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Ruben San Miguel said. The driver of the truck, a Ford F-250 pickup, and his passenger were injured and taken to Citizens Medical Center in Victoria and later released. The third vehicle was a semi truck pulling a trailer. Its driver was not injured, San Miguel said.

San Miguel said the accident occurred shortly before 11 a.m. Saturday when the van, travelling north on U.S. Hwy. 59 in the left lane at the intersection of U.S. 59 Business and U.S. 59 North, struck the semitrailer, which also was travelling north in the outside lane alongside the van.

The collision caused the driver of the van to lose control, cross over a grassy median and strike the pickup head-on.

Nora Gabriela Chavez, 42, the van’s driver, and her husband Oscar Chavez, 45, were killed along with Adrian Leal Rodriguez, 47. Sebastian Rodriguez, 6, and his 13-year-old sister Edna also were killed, and a 13-year-old girl survived.

San Miguel did not identify the two children. Rather, they were identified in a story about the accident in the Victoria Advocate newspaper.

“We’re coming together now to see how we can help because everybody in that van was part of our Longoria family,” Tania Carreón, who is a kindergarten teacher at Longoria Elementary, said. “We’re devastated.”

Nora Chavez had worked at Longoria.

Carreón said when she spoke with Nora Chavez about a week ago they talked about the trip the family planned to Galveston to go on a cruise ship. She said Nora and her sister Edna Veronica Rodriguez, had taken their families on a similar trip last year.

“They were wonderful, wonderful children, wonderful, wonderful parents,” Carreón said. “At every presentation they would be there. …. You could tell they came from a loving family.”

San Miguel identified the other people riding in the van as Edna Veronica Rodriguez, 38, and Andres Chavez, 19, and Oscar Alejandro Chavez, 21, who were injured but were released from the hospital.

Andrea Chavez, 17, was flown to University Medical Center in San Antonio, where she was reported in stable condition Sunday night.

Edna Hernandez was flown to Hermann Memorial Hospital in Houston and also was reported in stable condition, San Miguel said.

The Brownsville Independent School District said it would offer counseling services as the year progresses at El Jardin Elementary, where Edna Rodriguez teaches and J.T. Canales Elementary, where Chavez was a teacher and the children would have attended this coming year due to the closing of Longoria.

Also injured in the crash were Daniel Oscar Garza, 55, of Spring, and his passenger, Ana Lee Betancourt, 51, also of Spring.

The driver of the 18-wheeler, Dennis Lee Harridge, 58, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was not injured.

San Miguel said the cause of the accident remains under investigation. He emphasized the need to use caution when operating a motor vehicle and to wear seat belts to avoid injury in the event of an accident.