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In Long Beach, hundreds gather to mourn the loss of family of 3 killed in suspected DUI crash on Halloween

Vera Awaida pulled her two sons in for a tight embrace.

With tears in her eyes, she faced hundreds of people looking toward her, with candles illuminating their faces at Los Cerritos Park on Thursday night.

They stood where her oldest son, daughter-in-law and grandson spent their last moments together, before a suspected drunken driver fatally struck them as they were walking home one week ago.

“I wouldn’t be standing here,” Vera Awaida said to the crowd, “without your support and your love.”

About 400 people gathered to honor and remember Joseph “Yousef” Awaida, 30, Raihan Dakhil, 32, and their 3-year-old son Omar, who were plowed by an SUV driven by a suspected drunken driver on Halloween night, as they were walking on a sidewalk at the park in Long Beach’s Bixby Knolls area.

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Joseph Awaida died Oct. 31, on the night of the crash. Omar Awaida died on Saturday, and Raihan Dakhil was pronounced dead a day after her son’s death.

The subsequent deaths of the family – beloved and cherished by many in the Long Beach community – has left folks in disbelief and frustration at how they could’ve been wiped out in a single tragic incident.

At the Thursday night vigil, sadness hung in the air as people looked at the dozens of flowers and candles where those they loved had died. Folks, many with tears in their eyes, hugged one another and exchanged reassuring smiles.

Parents held their small children, some of whom knew Omar, as they looked at the candles among the crowd with curious faces.

“We love Omar,” one woman said to a small boy holding a candle in the crowd.

In front of those who knew the family, several local officials offered their condolences at the vigil.

“This is a Long Beach family who has gone through an incredible tragedy this past week,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said.

Although it had been a tragic week, Garcia said there has been a lot of love among the community.

“We’re all with you,” he said to the Awaida family.

Also among officials was Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, who said the department had heavy hearts for the victim’s families.

“This incident should never have happened,” he said.

This was the second vigil officials had attended this week, Luna noted.

Officials on Tuesday also joined the families of the 12 shot at a Long Beach Halloween party shooting in the Rose Park neighborhood last week – where three died and nine were injured – two days before the Awaida family’s tragedy struck.

“Such sadness in our city,” said Megan Kerr, a Long Beach school board member who lives near the Awaida family. “It feels so heavy in the air that it seeps into our skin.”

Despite his grief, Dafer Dakhil – Raihan Dakhil’s uncle –thanked the community.

Before Omar Awaida and Raihan Dakhil died, about a thousand people on each of the three days came to the hospital, to support the family as they were still in critical condition, he said.

More than $400,000 had been raised by Thursday night to help the family with funeral and medical expenses.

“I can’t tell you how difficult it would have been without your support,” he said to the crowd.

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The family of three that night enjoyed trick-or-treating and then went to the home of Cecilia Ramos – Awaida’s aunt – just north of Los Cerritos Park, according to Ramos. They were walking home to their nearby condo, just south of Los Cerritos Park, when they were struck by the driver, she said.

“They were 100 steps from their front door,” Ramos said Thursday morning.

The suspected driver, 20-year-old Carlo Navarro of Long Beach, stayed at the scene and was arrested that night on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, among other DUI-related charges. He was released on $100,000 bail the following night, but was taken back into custody on Tuesday for unrelated misdemeanor charges from an earlier suspected burglary crime.

Navarro was being held on $500,000 bail. He was scheduled to be arraigned on the misdemeanor charges on Thursday morning, but the date was pushed back to next month.

Chief Luna said officials are doing everything they can to hold Navarro “accountable for his role in this tragedy.”


Source: Orange County Register

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