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OXON HILL — The year ended treacherously for a Virginia family after three young children were killed and two adults were critically injured in a fatal, multi-vehicle collision on Indian Head Highway on the evening of Dec. 30, Prince George’s County Police (PGPD) said.
The preliminary investigation revealed that a man, whom investigators suspect was intoxicated and was driving alone in a pickup truck , rear-ended a vehicle carrying two adults and three children at around 9:40 p.m. on Indian Head Highway (MD-210) near Wilson Bridge Drive in Oxon Hill.
The impact caused the victims’ vehicle to strike the car in front of it which struck another vehicle as well, according to PGPD. The victims were said to have been in a sedan when the speeding pickup truck slammed into them from behind; the impact was so forceful, the car’s roof was ripped off, and the truck’s front tires tore into the back seat where the children were, police said.
Five-year-old twins, Alexander Mejia and Rosalie Mejia, and their baby brother 1-year-old Isaac Mejia, all of Falls Church, Va., were killed upon impact. The two adult victims, the children’s parents – Alexis and his wife Juanita – were transported to a local hospital immediately following the incident in critical but stable condition.
The incident is still under investigation by PGPD’s Collision Analysis Reconstruction Unit (CARU).
“While it is early in our investigation, we know the crash occurred just before an intersection where the family was either slowed or stopped behind two other vehicles for the traffic light,” PGPD said in a statement from Dec. 31.
“The driver of the pick-up is suspected of driving under the influence and, it appears, was moving at a much higher rate of speed than the victims’ cars. Preliminarily, there is no evidence of skid marks on the scene before the point of impact with the vehicle carrying the family. The pick-up truck came to rest on top of the rear passenger compartment of that sedan.”
The driver of the truck, who remains unidentified, was taken into custody at the scene for sobriety testing, officials said but was later released.
“I am heartbroken over the loss of these three young innocent lives. The actions of a suspected drunk driver have ended in a lifetime of pain for this family,” PGPD Chief Hank Stawinski said.
“We work tirelessly to clear our roads of drivers who make the horrible decision to pick up their keys and drive while impaired. We have been conducting targeted DUI and speed enforcement across the county and stepped up our efforts in specific areas to include the 210 corridors as we neared the New Year’s Eve holiday.”
Relatives of the family are asking for justice and prayers.
“We would like justice to be served for the crime he committed. Nothing more and nothing less. The crime he did can’t go unpunished,” said Elbis, the uncle of the three children and brother of Juanita Mejia. “My sister and my brother-in-law, that’s the first thing that they’ve asked for is just prayers.”
The family’s GoFundMe campaign, as of Jan. 7, has exceeded its $100,000 goal by raising nearly $102,000 to help the family.
“Thank you to all that have shared and contributed!!! Everyone is truly amazing. Please continue to keep Alexis and Juanita in your prayers as they continue to recover,” Nathaly Ramirez, who set up the account for the family, said in a recent message posted on the GoFundMe page.
The driver who crashed into the Mejia family had his license suspended and the police department is working with the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office to review charges.
The pickup truck driver will not be charged until the investigation is complete, Stawinski said on Jan. 4.
“Final charges, in this case, are pending the outcomes of the investigation, toxicology testing and reconstruction analysis and will be determined in consultation with the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office,” PGPD said.
“My heart goes out to the family of the three young siblings whose lives were tragically taken away in a fatal collision last night. Our thoughts and prayers are with all who were injured and all families involved,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy said in a statement released Dec. 31.
“Once we receive the results of the investigation, we will work diligently to determine the appropriate charges that should be filed.”
A recent report notes that there were 354 crashes in Route MD-210 in 2018, which averages out to be nearly a crash per day. The frequently traveled highway has the deplorable reputation as one of Maryland’s most dangerous roads.
Local public officials and prosecutors, including County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, have promised a Route 210 crackdown on traffic violations following the three untimely deaths.
Following the accident, county officials and state delegates announced they would be pursuing legislation in coming months to increase the number of speed cameras along the 13-mile thoroughfare.
“This is a death trap that should not be so,” Alsobrooks said. “This is a state road. We will be working with the governor and with the state, who also have a responsibility to make sure that our families are safe when they’re driving down this road.”
Legislators and law enforcement have urged drivers to proceed with extra care on Indian Head Highway as the recent crash has flooded headlines over the past week, once again raising safety concerns about one of the busiest and most hazardous roads in the Washington region.
The two other cars in front of the Mejia family’s car were also hit, and one of the drivers affected was hospitalized with minor injuries.
“We are not only aware of this issue; we are actively engaged in this fight to take drunk drivers off the road and to hold them responsible. So it is difficult to describe how deeply frustrated I am, because, despite all of this work, a family is suffering beyond imagination,” Stawinski said.
“All of this because of one individual’s decision that placed the lives of all those around him in jeopardy when he got behind that wheel. It was a decision that ended in tragedy and it was a tragedy that didn’t need to be.”
Anyone who witnessed the collision or who may have additional information pertinent to this investigation is asked to call PGPD’s Collision Analysis Reconstruction Unit investigators at 301-731-4422.