OAKHURST — It was the day after Christmas 12-26-21, and our area had been receiving some much-needed snow. Families were very excited for the chance to play in the snow together, even though officials had been recommending against travel into the Sierra Nevada Mountains for the week leading up to Christmas, as we reported here.
I had spent the day monitoring and reporting about several traffic collisions and hazards on the Sierra News Online Facebook page and some of the Facebook groups I contribute to, as well. The area between Oakhurst and Fish Camp, as usual, was a mess, but I didn’t worry too much and posted it like I did the other accidents that day. A short while later, I started seeing comments and receiving messages that this accident was different because it had turned into a fatal accident. This news always hurts my heart to hear.
The following day 12-27-21, Public Information Officer Jason Bettini sent out a press release that described a RAM 2500 pick-up truck traveling south on Highway 41 near Cain Drive, leaving the road, and traveling onto the shoulder and down a dirt embankment. The Dodge truck then collided with a large tree. The press release stated, “the driver sustained major injuries and was pronounced deceased on scene.” The press release also said that several other passengers were in the vehicle. With ages ranging from 2 to 31, they sustained injuries from minor to major, and were transported via ambulance to the local hospital.
It wasn’t until the next day — Tuesday 12-28-21, that we found out whose life had been lost in that accident, and it was a shock. I was heartbroken to find out that the son of Kenneth and Victoria Trujillo, Andrew Trujillo, from Catheys Valley, was no longer with us. I knew who Andrew was because the Trujillo family has been a part of my family’s lives for many years. Not just my family, either. They are well known to the communities of Catheys Valley and Mariposa for their long-time service in many ways. At this point that we also knew that Anthony’s two-year-old son, Drew, was now parentless, having lost his mother a year ago.
Forever a Hero
Andrew Trujillo will forever be a hero in all of our hearts. From Sierra Ambulance’s Facebook page we know that he was a paramedic with them since March of 2020 and that “he served our community faithfully with a joyful attitude and his unforgettable smile.” Andrew’s boss Ed Guzman told us that “Andrew’s love of people made him not only an outstanding paramedic but made him a wonderful partner, father, and co-worker.” He also worked for Mercy Ambulance in Mariposa County, where his friend and co-worker Kathryn Garrity spent countless hours with him responding to emergency calls. She recalls how patient and understanding he was and how much he loved children. I personally know this to be accurate as my own children were on the receiving end of the Trujillo family’s love for children repeatedly while attending Vacation Bible School during the summers at the Catheys Valley Baptist Church. Over the past few days, I’ve read countless posts on social media about Andrew, with the theme always being how much he loved others and serving his community.
Also with Andrew in the tragic accident were his girlfriend, Melissa Rios, a teacher at Minarets High School, his son “Drew Drew,” and Melissa’s two children. Miraculously, Drew Drew was uninjured. Melissa suffered a broken collarbone and her son (11) a broken shoulder and daughter (9) lacerations, and a chipped tooth. You can tell that her most significant hurt is to her heart and the loss of the man who was “an answer to my prayers… that I would find someone to love my children and me. Holding back tears Melissa shared, “Andrew just spoiled us. He would come to my school, and write notes, then place them around my classroom for me to find or my students.” She continued, “Andrew was the sweetest, kindest, most amazing person I have ever met. You could see the love in his smile.” Oh, that smile! Another common theme over and over again in the posts that I read.
One of Andrew’s sisters, Evangeline (Vangie) Trujillo-Taylor, spoke to us of that smile too. She said that “you can tell how big Drew’s heart is by his smile.” I believe it! Post after post, picture after picture that is what I will remember. I hope Baby Drew Drew will remember his dad’s smile when he gets older. A dad that always wanted to be a father and loved him dearly.
Our Community Responds
So many times over the last week, I’ve thought to myself and out loud, “how can something so tragic happen in our community?” Which then always leads me to a place of action. This reaction, I believe, comes from living in our community for so long and always seeing the people here respond with not only deep kindness, caring, and love but actions. This week, it has been most evident by watching the offers of help going out to the Trujillo family. The Trujillo family would be first in line to help others in this situation. One of the most remarkable expressions of love and kindness I’ve seen towards the family, especially baby Drew, is that of a Go Fund Me Fundraiser set up by one of Andrews’ aunts and uncles. So far, people from all over have donated more than $80,000 to provide for Drew’s future. Andrew’s sister shared that the family “has been blown away by everyone’s kindness.”
From me, I genuinely hope that the family knows how much they have touched our lives, even to the point of giving their son to our community in service and in life…and death. He will never be forgotten! From Andrew’s sister Vangie “I want people to know that life is more than just here. My brother Drew is in Heaven, and baby Drew Drew will be loved forever.” Most importantly, we want people to find the love of Jesus even through tragedy and Heaven is so much sweeter with Drew there.”
From everyone here at Sierra News Online, our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends (and especially baby Drew Drew) of Andrew Trujillo.