STOCKTON, Calif. - Andrew Lopez, 23, is still in the hospital, recovering from his injuries. Police said he was behind the wheel of the Jeep Cherokee that crashed into a utility pole and caught fire on New Year's Eve. Two young girls in the car, his sisters-in laws, were critically injured.
While some witnesses said Lopez was racing before he crashed on Lincoln and Church streets, his parents, Irene and Alfred Salmeron don't believe it. They said their son would not use his run-down vehicle to race another car, and he would never deliberately put his loved ones lives in danger.
"The car is not raceable. My son would not end up street racing for one," Irene Salmeron said. "He would not end up street racing if he has kids in the car."
Alfred Salmeron said Lopez just got off from work and dropped his wife at home.
"His girl told him, 'Well, go pick up the pizza and then go pick up my little sisters,'" Alfred Salmeron said.
Lopez's parents said they talked to witnesses at the crash site and they told a different story than what police said.
"[Witnesses] say he was racing. But I'm thinking he was getting away from somebody because that guy swiped him off the road one time and he barely got control," Alfred Salmeron said. "The car that was involved, swiped him twice. Not once, but twice off the same road."
When Lopez crashed his Jeep, his vehicle burst into flames. Several bystanders helped pull the young girls from the burning car.
Maria, 11, and Maricela, 10, Raymundo have been recovering at UC Davis Medical Center. The younger sister returned home Friday night. Their mother Lisa Juarez said the girls don't remember anything about the horrible car accident or who was driving. Juarez doesn't believe her son-in-law was racing.
"Right now, I do not find it in my heart to forgive him," Juarez said. "I'm sorry. I won't."
According to Stockton police, Lopez was arrested for DUI before and was on probation for DUI. On Saturday night, his parents responded to that by saying, "that was in his teenage years." They said he's now a family man, a father and a husband.
"My daughter-in-law would not send my son to pick up her sisters if he was drunk," Irene Salmeron said.
Police reiterate that witnesses on the scene said Lopez was racing. According to witnesses, the other car in the race was a Camero or trans-am type car.
Anyone who saw what happened should contact police.
By Suzanne Phan, firstname.lastname@example.org