Memorial honors seven lives lost in Interstate 5 crash

A Mariachi band plays at a Sunday memorial for the seven people killed in a crash on Interstate 5 earlier this month.
A Mariachi band plays at a Sunday memorial for the seven people killed in a crash on Interstate 5 earlier this month.

Friends, family and coworkers gathered Sunday evening to remember the seven people killed in a fatal crash on I5 earlier this month.

Morning Star Church in Salem hosted the memorial, led by pastor and Chaplain George Escalante. The memorial was private, open to invited parties only, but a live stream broadcast the services to grieving loved ones abroad.

Escalante offered prayers and messages of strength and resilience.

"Life contains grief and pain," Escalante said. It's natural to feel a multitude of feelings all at once: anger, despair, even guilt, he said: "The best thing we can do is let ourselves feel what we need to feel... and know that we feel you." The service honored Eduardo Lopez, 31, of Gervais; Alejandro Jimenez Hernandez, 36, of Gervais; Josue Garcia Garcia, 30, of Salem; Luis Enrique Gomez Reyes, 30, of Woodburn; Javier Suarez, 58, of Woodburn; Alejandra Espinoza Carpio, 39; and Juan Carlos Leyva Carrillo, 37, of Woodburn.

The service also was a ode to farmworkers. All seven victims were agricultural workers for J. Ruiz Farm Labor Contracting. They had been working in a sugar beet field in Albany and were on their way home the day they were killed.

In a statement read on her behalf, administrative manager Anmarie Ruiz painted distinct portraits of the farmworker: the single man who comes to the United States to work hard and live minimally. The young couple who comes to make money for a life back home, but ends up building a life and a family here. Parents who work to fund their adult childrens' educations.

After every profile, which Ruiz said were based on real stories but not necessarily the victims' lives, Ruiz offered a simple proclamation: "we see you."

A Mariachi band played during the ceremony and through a reception that followed.

Four people also were injured in the crash. The semi-truck driver from California has been charged with manslaughter, assault, reckless driving and DUII.

Shannon Sollitt covers agricultural workers through Report for America, a program that aims to support local journalism and democracy by reporting on under-covered issues and communities. Send tips, questions and comments to ssollitt@statesmanjournal.com

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Memorial for seven farmworkers who died in Interstate 5 crash