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Benefits raising funds for crash victims

October 5, 2018

Odessans are rallying behind a family that lost three members in a Monday car crash that investigators say was caused by the drivers of two Dodge Challengers who were racing down 16th Street.

One of the Challenger drivers, 22-year-old Christian Flores of El Paso, was killed in the accident as well as three Odessans who were in a car heading in the opposite direction of the racers.

The surviving accused racer, 17-year-old Albertico Valenzuela, is a student at Odessa High School, Ector County ISD Spokesman Mike Atkins said. He was charged by police Tuesday with racing causing serious bodily injury, a second-degree felony. Jail records show he was taken to the Ector County Detention Center on Tuesday and released the same day on a $25,000 bond.

The other deceased included 9-year-old Elias Delagarza who died Wednesday afternoon from incapacitating injuries sustained from the crash. Also killed in the accident were his sister, 20-year-old Kassandra Delagarza, and his mother, 47-year-old Araceli Gabaldon.

Sergio Delagarza, 17, is an 11th grade student at Falcon Early College High School. Elias Delagarza went to a private school outside of ECISD, and one of Sergio Delagarza’s teachers, Elizabeth Gray, started a Gofundme to raise money for her student’s family.

“This is such a tragedy for our student, and I just wanted him to know that his Falcon family was there for him and could help in some way,” Gray said.

Gray’s fundraiser has raised $1,973 of its $5,000 goal so far. Another separate Gofundme has been started benefiting the Delagarza family as well, by the friends and co-workers of Kassandra Delagarza, that has raised $6,020 of its $7,000 goal so far. Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Odessa also helped raise money for the family Thursday by selling brisket plates.

Street racing is a problem that local law enforcement is used to dealing with, Sheriff Mike Griffis said.

“It is a problem,” Griffis said. “Anywhere there’s a stretch of roadway that’s between two intersections that have stop signs or signal lights is a place that those individuals will use to do the race.”

Griffis said some of the areas more known for racing around Ector County include Flamingo Avenue north of 42nd Street, Palomino Avenue between 16th and 25th Streets, and near University Boulevard and 16th Street. But Griffis said racing can happen anywhere and everywhere, and at any given time.

“Two cars pull up at the same intersection, and they’ll challenge each other,” Griffis said. “It’s just so dadgum dangerous.”

One of the issues with street racing is that law enforcement must be present to catch anyone racing. Griffis said for someone to be charged with racing, they would have to be exhibiting or making a show of their speed.

DPS troopers were called to the scene of the four-vehicle crash at about 11:10 p.m. Monday, where they found a 2017 Dodge Challenger, a 2013 Dodge Challenger, a 2017 Chevrolet Impala and a parked and unattended Chevrolet Silverado, a DPS news release stated.

The crash reportedly occurred after the two Challengers were racing westbound on 16th Street when Flores lost control of his vehicle and crashed into the other Challenger, being driven by Valenzuela, a news release detailed.

The hit Challenger then skidded into the eastbound lanes, colliding with the Impala, which then crashed into the parked Silverado, the release stated.

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