Wife memorializes daughter, ex-husband killed by his DUI
Despite the circumstances surrounding her 7-year-old daughter's death, Luz Barrera says it is important that her former husband be remembered with the girl in a memorial planted Wednesday at a Round Lake Park railroad crossing where they were killed earlier this year.
Her ex-husband Francisco Carranza's blood alcohol content was four times the legal threshold when he drove in front of a Metra commuter train at about 5:55 p.m. Jan. 22 where railroad tracks cross at Porter Drive and Route 134, police said.
Alyssa Carranza's body was found in a ditch about 50 feet from the crash, authorities said, while her father, wearing a seat belt, was found dead inside his 2006 Range Rover.
Barrera said she hopes Francisco and Alyssa Carranza are remembered when drivers go over the tracks and pass the memorial featuring flowers and other plants. She said what led to the crash shouldn't matter for the memorial.
"That's her father. And we both lost two wonderful people that day," said Barrera, a Round Lake resident.
About 20 friends and family joined Barrera at the crash site for the memorial planting. Among them was Beto Gomez of Round Lake Beach, a longtime friend of Francisco Carranza.
Gomez said the memorial will be nice for those who still visit the site to pay their respects to his friend and Alyssa. Francisco Carranza, 36, was an insurance business owner who lived in Island Lake.
"Big comedian," Gomez said in remembering his pal. "Family guy. I learned a lot of comedy stuff from him. A happy guy, you know?"
Wilson Nurseries and Landscape Supply in Volo donated about 14 plants and flowers for the memorial. Employee Heather Tellez said a variety of perennials will keep the crossing nice most of the year with shades of purple, which was Alyssa's favorite color.
Police Chief George Filenko said he suggested Wednesday as a time to plant the memorial since it falls in the middle of Illinois Rail Safety Week. The effort has support from a statewide police chiefs association and other organizations.
Last year, 126 crashes occurred at public highway-rail crossings in Illinois, resulting in 40 personal injuries and 21 fatalities, according to data compiled by the state. Roughly 67 percent of crashes at public grade crossings happened despite active warning devices such as flashing lights, bells and gates.
Round Lake Park police said Francisco Carranza had a blood-alcohol level of .32 percent -- four times the .08 percent legal limit for driving -- when the crash happened. Reports state Carranza began drinking about noon, when he met a group of six or seven friends at a Round Lake Beach restaurant.
Carranza left the eatery at 2 or 2:30 p.m. to pick up Alyssa, as arranged with her mother, after she exited a school bus near her Round Lake house, police said. Carranza returned with his daughter to the restaurant, where he drank more alcohol with his group.
Alyssa was a second-grader at St. Joseph Catholic School in Round Lake, where she was into competitive cheerleading and known for having a smile that could brighten a room. Barrera said the deaths remain fresh eight months later.
"I'm taking it day by day, pretty much," she said. "Just trying to keep busy. They'll always be with us."