COARSEGOLD — During times of unthinkable tragedy, there is often someone who rushes in to help. They may go unrecognized, and sometimes they may suffer a different kind of trauma than those who have lost a loved one.
The community is mourning the loss of Ruby Alvarez, a beautiful, vibrant 24-year-old mom, daughter, niece and sister, who was known by many from her work as General Manager at Form Fitness in Oakhurst. Ruby died in a head-on collision on Highway 41 early Saturday morning, leaving behind a precious daughter named Lucy who is just two years old.
Lucy was seriously injured in the crash that took the life of her mother, and someone held her and stayed with her at the accident scene. That someone wants very much to know if this baby girl is okay.
Christopher Lachawicz was headed home to Coarsegold from the valley early Saturday morning just before 1 a.m. when a three-car collision happened just seconds ahead of him near the North Fork turnoff.
He pulled over to the side of the road and jumped out of his car, racing to see what he could do to help what turned out to be five critically injured people, two trapped inside a burning car.
“The fire was getting bigger and bigger, and there were a couple people there trying to get those people out,” says Christopher, who has been trained in first aid and CPR through his military and firefighter training.
With others working to lay the front seat back and pull the driver out the back door of the burning car, Christopher ran to the black Honda Civic in the southbound lane and found Ruby behind the wheel, but couldn’t get to her.
“All the doors were locked, so I ran around to see if anybody else was in there,” he recalls, still clearly shaken from the experience. “I saw a foot, a baby’s foot.”
There was a little girl upside down in the back, pinned between the child safety seat and the rear car seat. As he thinks back on what happened next, he’s not quite clear, but remembers there were two women who had also stopped to help, and somehow they got the car door open.
“We were trying to figure out how to get the little girl out without causing her any more injury,” he says, as they worked to free Lucy, watching all the while the flames from the burning car growing bigger and bigger.
They carefully wrapped the little girl in a blanket and holding her head to keep it stable, carried her to the side of the road near his car, away from the flames.
“I could smell gas leaking and then the first car just blew up, like in the movies,” he says. “And the fire started spreading towards my car and the baby.”
Christopher quickly put the two women in the back seat of his car, had them cradle the little girl while he jumped into the driver’s seat and backed away from the flames, which were now spreading down the roadway as fuel and oil leaked from the damaged vehicles. Others pulled the injured who were lying on the ground away from the burning car.
That’s when the first of the fire engines arrived. Then the CHP and the ambulances. The traffic was backed up in both directions and made it difficult for the first responders to get through.
As EMS rushed to help the two people who had been pulled from the burning car, Christopher continued to cradle little Lucy, holding her head up and making sure she kept breathing. He knew she was seriously injured, and did everything he could to keep her still and keep her alive, as firefighters fought to free Ruby from the wreckage of her car.
“I held her for probably 40 minutes,” Christopher recalls, trying to hold back the deep emotion and frustration with what seemed like an eternity until Lucy was placed in the ambulance and taken to Valley Children’s Hospital.
And now, he is in search of answers. He has called CHP and the hospital trying to get any word on Lucy, to no avail — they can’t give out any information to anyone who is not family. He also called Form Fitness, but they also declined to provide phone numbers.
Christopher returned to the scene of the accident the next day, going over in his head how it all happened and trying to quell his anger at those who didn’t stop to help.
“There were so many people who just turned around and left, or drove right through the wreckage,” he recalls of the moments after the crash. “You just naturally like to believe that anybody would get out of their car to help in such an extreme emergency; anybody with any humanity.”
But mostly, he wonders constantly about what happened to the little girl who he says could have died in his arms.
“I haven’t been able to sleep,” he says. “I finally slept for about six hours on Sunday; finally able to just pass out. When you have a baby in your arms for nearly an hour, you wanna know something. I just wanna know her condition. Maybe that would help me sleep a little bit; there might be some sort of release with that.”
On Monday, Lucy’s aunt Adriana Alvarez, posted this on Facebook, “Prayers for my family … the little girl is my niece she is stable. She has a broken leg, arm and broken jaw. She will have surgery today; please pray for her. I would like to thank the young guy that held my little niece at the accident. He can contact me… please just pray for us.”
(Editor’s note: We have contact information for Christopher if any of Ruby and Lucy’s family members wish to give us a call at 559-877-3333).
Alvarez Family Support Fund – Funds raised through this account shall be utilized for funeral services for Ruby, medical care for Lucy, travel expenses, and monetary relief and support for the family as they cope with this horrific loss and tragedy.
To read the original post of this accident, click here.