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Community raises more than $28,000 for victims of deadly Chillum crash

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Posted on: November 14, 2015

BY REBECCA BENNETT — Updated on Nov. 15 at 4:43 p.m.  On Nov. 8,  everything changed when 30-year-old Medardo Flores, a Chillum resident, hit a Cadillac on Chillum Road and drove away from the scene.  A short time later, he crossed the center line and slammed into a church van transporting 16 adults and children. Flores and four other people died: Staily Gomez, 6, Santiago Merche, 75, his wife Elba, 72 — all Washington, D.C. residents — and the full-term, unborn baby of a couple also involved in the crash.

In the three days since the GoFundMe page was set up by Pastor Jose from Iglesia Ministerio De Dios Unido Church,  more than $28, 000 has been donated by 564 people to assist the families involved. The fundraising goal is set at $50,000.

Both bands that played the Nov. 14 Second Saturdays Music Showcase at Vigilante Coffee donated the proceeds to the crash victims. According to Jim Groves, bands Makin’ Slow Gin and After the Flood donated $50.

From Mayor Candace Hollingsworth on Nov. 12:

Today, Sgt. Suzie Johnson and I visited Pastor Santos at Iglesia Minesterio de Dios Unido today along with the managers and district manager for two local Giant food stores. The small church has approximately 80 members with 16 members involved in the crash on Chillum Rd this past Sunday. Giant will be providing what they can (food, water, etc.) to the church and families over the coming days. Services will be held Saturday evening beginning at 6pm going through the night into Sunday morning.

Many people have asked how they can help. Financial donations are most needed right now as the greatest expense is in returning Santiago Merche and Elba Linares home to El Salvador for traditional burial. Many of those injured will be out of work as a result of their injuries and will need assistance caring for their families during recovery. The church has created a Go Fund Me account for all donations.

More from News4 about the family who lost their unborn baby:

Marta Rodriguez suffered two broken arms and lost her baby, a boy she planned to name Isaias.

More from WUSA9 about the husband and wife who died:

Elba linares and Santiago Merche go to church every Sunday night. Last night, they never came home and after hours of not knowing, the family finally heard from police.

More from News4 about a good Samaritan who stopped to help:

Michael Tymas told News4 he had to help when he saw people in need, even if he had to put his own life in danger.

“I seen people in trouble and my instincts just told me to get out and help,” he said.

More on the frantic 911 calls from FOX5 and WUSA9:

911 CALLER: It’s babies. It’s a whole van full of kids. My husband is helping to pull these babies out.

More on the truck driver’s driving record from ABC7:

“When I heard about him passing away, my heart just dropped,” Blocker remarked while sitting on his front porch. “What he enjoyed doing was working and coming home to take care of his family.” …

According to the Maryland Judiciary Case Search online database, police arrested Flores in 2011 for 2nd degree arson and destruction of property. Then in 2014, Montgomery County Police cited him for drunk driving, unsafe lane changing and driving on the wrong side of the road.

More from how the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene:

Squad 1 arrived and immediately connected with PE844’s officer and began operations. The lineman from PE844 was working to extinguish the pickup truck, which had one fatality inside. As one member of Squad 1 went to work assisting in triaging the victims on the ground who had been pulled out by the citizens, the crew went to work with five patients trapped in the church van including one fatality.

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