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5 Children Killed When Car Sinks

April 15, 1999

EPHRATA, Wash. (AP) _ A car carrying two women and five children plunged into a swift-flowing irrigation canal, trapping them inside. The women managed to crawl through a window and float to safety, but the boys _ ages 2 to 11 _ never made it out.

``Five children is a traumatic thing,″ Grant County Undersheriff Mike Shay said after the bodies were recovered. ``You look at those five kids, and you think of your own children and grandchildren.″

Investigators were trying to determine what caused Tuesday night’s accident about a mile north of this central Washington farm town. Police said the car slipped off the road when the driver Rosio Curiel, 24, mother of two of the victims, tried to turn around. There was no indication alcohol was a factor.

The car plunged into the cold waters of a V-shaped, concrete-lined canal that carries water from Grand Coulee Dam and nourishes tracts of fruit tree orchards, hay fields and row crops.

The women escaped through an open driver’s side window and floated several hundred yards downstream before being pulled from the canal near Terry Catlin’s home.

Catlin, an irrigation district employee and reserve sheriff’s deputy, raced to the scene after telling his mother to call 911. The car was resting upside down under 20 feet of water on the floor of the canal.

The water was too swift for divers to try to remove the bodies, so they hooked up cables to the 1987 Chevrolet Spectrum and lifted it out nearly 90 minutes after the accident.

Shay found the bodies of the five boys in the back seat.

They were identified as Alexis Curiel, 2; Jose Curiel Jr., 4; Jose Chavez, 3; Martin Chavez, Jr., 2; and Victor Eduardo Chavez, 11.

Their mothers _ Ms. Curiel and Maria Chavez, 32 _ were treated at a hospital and released.

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