SAN DIEGO (KGTV) A grieving San Diego father is speaking out after a crash claimed the life of his 8-year-old daughter.
“Julia was the light of the room. She had this beautiful, big smile,” said Mario Arellano.
Two weekends ago, 8-year-old Julia and her siblings spent the weekend with their mom Jessica Nieto, 33, camping in Julian.
They were headed back, nearing Nieto’s home in Temecula that Sunday night, when according to the CHP, Nieto lost control of her Honda Pilot on the westbound 79 west of Anza road, veered into the eastbound lane, colliding head-on with a pickup truck.
“My heart dropped,” Arellano, the children’s father, and Nieto's ex-husband, who vividly remembers getting the call from the CHP.
12-year-old Mario and 5-year-old Jenavieve had been airlifted from the scene.
Julia, who wasn't wearing a seat belt, died at the scene.
“My heart broke into pieces, and I didn't understands how to take in the information,” said Arellano.
Nieto was arrested on several charges, including driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter.
The two children have been since been released from the hospital. Jenavieve suffered minor injuries. Mario suffered a broken arm, wrist, and collapsed lung.
Both are now coping with the loss of a sister.
“Julia was everything. So charismatic,” said Arellano.
Arellano says Julia loved arts and crafts, softball, and being with her family.
“She was growing into such a beautiful young lady. So happy,” said a tearful Arellano.
Her young life was cut tragically short. Her mother is now facing charges in her death.
“I'm upset with the decisions that were made. I want justice for Julia. I want accountability. Julia’s life didn't have to end,” said Arellano.
Amid a father's grief, a plea.
“Nobody should be drinking and driving. I never want any parent to get a call, saying their child has been involved in an accident, and they won't be coming back to you,” said Arellano.
A Gofundme campaign has been set up to help the family with funeral, medical and other expenses.
According to the CHP, the three people in the truck, two in their 40s and a 17-year-old, suffered injuries ranging from minor to serious.