Flowers and candles have been placed at North Blosser Road and West Alvin Avenue, the site of a fatal crash in Santa Maria. One of the drivers has been charged with murder and driving under the influence related to the crash.
Flowers and candles have been placed at North Blosser Road and West Alvin Avenue, the site of a fatal crash in Santa Maria. One of the drivers has been charged with murder and driving under the influence related to the crash.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A family returning from a surprise birthday celebration has been shattered after two children died in what their father called “a horrific” crash involving a drunken driver, who now faces murder and other charges. 

Hector Escobar Romero, 31, has been charged in Santa Barbara County Superior Court with two counts of murder, two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and driving under the influence causing injuries. Law enforcement officers initially identified him as Hector Romero Escobar, but the criminal complaint named him as Hector Escobar Romero.

The defendant also faces a special allegation, or sentencing enhancement, for causing paralysis to one of the passengers. The criminal complaint accuses him of running a red light. 

The two-vehicle crash occurred at approximately 8 p.m. Nov. 6 at North Blosser Road and West Alvin Avenue, Santa Maria police said. Three children — all under the age of 10 — were ejected from one of the vehicles in the collision.

Two children, identified in the criminal complaint as Yoselyn Gonzalez, 2, and Alejandro Gonzalez, 10, died due their injuries. Another child and their parents suffered major injuries in the crash, police said.

A GoFundMe page has been started for the family, with the father, Gabriel Leon, saying he is left trying to provide comfort to his wife who is completely shattered and has also suffered injuries on her leg and back.

The family was returning from a surprise birthday party organized by his loved ones when the crashed occurred, according to the GoFundMe page.

“Yoselyn was a beautiful, happy, and vibrant child who loved playing with dolls. Alex was a happy child who enjoyed playing soccer and being with friends,” the father said. 

“Today, we grieve the loss of our children who we will never get to see again. The pain we feel during this time is unbearable and we hope no other parents ever experience something like this.”

He said they hope to bury the children in Mexico.

“My wife and I now wish to be able to lay to rest our babies in our native town of Tierra Colorada, Oaxaca. We want to honor the memories of my beautiful children and focus on saying goodbye. Any contribution you make will be greatly appreciated and used for medical, burial costs, and other related expenses this tragedy has brought.

“We appreciate the love, prayers, and support we have received so far and would like to extend our gratitude to everyone in our community who has thought of our family in this very difficult time.”

The GoFundMe site had raised $16,995 from 391 donations as of Monday afternoon. 

Romero pleaded not guilty to the charges during an arraignment hearing last week in Santa Maria Superior Court. 

He has a conviction for misdemeanor drunken driving stemming from a 2018 arrest when his blood alcohol content was recorded at 0.20%, according to Superior Court records.

The defendant remains in the custody of the Northern Branch Jail with bail set at $2 million. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.