Thursday , May 23 2024

CHP: Suspected Drunk Driver Crashes, Leaves His Injured Kids

Madera CHP officers are looking for Rafael Cortez, 31, for allegedly driving under the influence, crashing, rolling over several times, and fleeing the scene, leaving his four injured children behind.

It happened Tuesday after 6 p.m. on Avenue 19 near Pickfair Way east of Hwy 99.

The children’s injuries ranged from minor to major, according to CHP Officer Omar Godinez. 

"You don’t ever think a father of his children would leave his children there injured," Godinez said. 

The car crashed into an empty field near rows of houses. Many neighbors said they witnessed the crash.

"I was sitting in my garage, and I heard the car go by. I could tell he was speeding–had to be doing at least 60, 70 miles an hour," Curtis Willburg said. 

Several neighbors described hearing the car skid when it reached the curve from Hanover Drive to Avenue 19. 

"And the next thing you know, you didn’t hear it (the skidding) anymore, but you heard like thumping. And then when we came out, we saw nothing, but it was a big cloud of brown dirt," Viola Rodriguez said. 

CHP officers suspect Cortez was drinking and driving, finding several bottles of beer in the car–some already empty.

Two days later, remnants of the crash still littered the scene–an empty beer carton, glass and car parts marked the spot where the car came to a rest.

According to the CHP, the children, ages 13, 11, and 7-year-old twins, suffered injuries ranging from minor to severe.

"He was really bending over and crying, and then when I got closer to him, he had blood on his eye here and a big knot on the back of his head," Willburg said.

Neighbors said the kids appeared traumatized while people tried to help them call police and their mother.

"The neighbors from across the street were across the street trying to help them get out from the car," Rodriguez said.

The CHP said they’re working around the clock to find Cortez. They said family members are not cooperating with trying to find him.

"We do know he has strong ties out of the country. We are just afraid he will be a flight risk and not be here any longer," Godinez said.

Godinez said Cortez possibly faces charges of felony DUI, felony hit-and-run, and possibly more.

Anyone with information on Cortez’s whereabouts should call the Madera CHP at (209) 356-2900.

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