Two members of a family with strong ties to UC Davis died Friday while driving southbound on Interstate 5 to Los Angeles for a vacation when their 2014 Ford Taurus, carrying six people, was hit head-on by another car that had drifted over the median.
Three people died in the accident, which occurred in Merced County around 4:30 p.m. Friday, including Fernando Mardones, 62, and Maria Loreto Loyola, 61, both parents of a recent graduate of the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine, Fernando Mardones.
The 29-year-old male driver of the 2002 Toyota, a resident of Los Angeles, also died.
A fundraising effort has been set up to help defer medical and transportation costs for the family. As of Tuesday morning, about $65,000 had been raised.
Mardones’ wife Loreto Godoy, 32, who also recently graduated from the vet school, was taken to Memorial Modesto Hospital and remains in critical condition. Mardones, 36, and his two daughters — ages 4 years and 9 months — all sustained injuries but are expected to recover.
Both Mardones and his wife were in line to receive their Ph.D.s from UCD — Godoy in conservation ecology and Mardones in epidemiology and infectious disease, according to the UCD news service.
California Highway Patrol have not yet determined what caused the driver of the Toyota to cross the median. Police did determine, however, that the 4-year-old passenger in the Ford was sitting on the lap of a passenger in the back seat of the car.
Faculty and students of the UCD vet school have rallied around Mardones and his family since learning of the tragic accident over the weekend. Several members have started a fundraising effort through an online website that they hope will help Mardones pay for medical costs.
Funds could also be used to help pay for travel expenses of Mardones’ family, who reside in Chile and arrived to the area Sunday, according to a friend of the family.
“At this point his support system is doing what they can and as a community we can best help by providing some much-needed financial assistance,” said Michael Larimore, dean of the vet school, in an email.
Donations can be made online at http://www.gofundme.com/3czto4.
— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash