Community gathers at vigil for Chicano Park crash victims

SAN DIEGO – More than 100 people gathered Sunday night for a candlelight vigil in Chicano Park in memory of the four people who were killed when the driver of a pickup truck plunged more than 60 feet into a crowded festival.

Hundreds visited the crash site earlier in the day, bringing flowers and candles to the scene.

“When I heard about this, it just broke my heart, it just broke my heart that four people lost their lives here when they were here at an event, all happy and enjoying themselves,” said Nonie Samano, a City Heights resident who attended the vigil.

Authorities identified the four deceased as Cruz Elias Contreras, 52, and Annamarie Contreras, 50, both from Chandler, Arizona and Andre Christopher Banks, 49, and Francine Denise Jimenez, 46, both from Hacienda Heights.

Nine others were injured -- two with major trauma -- including the driver.

Richard Anthony Sepolio -- a  24-year-old on-duty Navy serviceman stationed in Coronado --  was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, causing injury or death. He could face four counts of vehicular homicide, according to the California Highway Patrol.

On Saturday afternoon, Sepolio's truck plunged off the Coronado Bridge and landed in the park, where hundreds of people were attending the La Raza biker festival, authorities said. Alcohol was involved, CHP spokesman Jake Sanchez said during a Saturday press conference.

“Being here for those people that lost somebody, it was horrible, horrific, just to think of what happened,” said one vigil attendee.

Members of a North County biker club knelt in prayer for the victims and comforted the victims’ loved ones.

“We just wanted to come down here and pay respects and we got to meet a family member and we got to hug on her and love on her. And that’s what we’re here for -- as a Christian motorcycle club, that’s what we’re here for. It could happen to any one of us at any time. I mean, in the blink of an eye,” said Eddie Daggett of Christ’s Sons Motorcycle Club in San Marcos.

“We’ve never had a tragedy like this in Chicano Park, ever, in the history of the park. Now that this has happened we’d like to make this into a sacred ground,” said Michael Arenas, another City Heights resident.