Crime - Sacto 911

Mother of victim in fatal wrong-way freeway crash: ‘He was like my right hand’

Fernando Bravo Maya and his 4-year-old son, Alexxander Garcia Bravo.
Fernando Bravo Maya and his 4-year-old son, Alexxander Garcia Bravo. Maria Maya Guzman

A family grieved Wednesday over the death of a West Sacramento father killed Tuesday night by a wrong-way driver on Interstate 80.

Fernando Bravo Maya, 24, was heading to a friend’s house at the time of the head-on collision near Northgate Boulevard, according to his mother, Maria Maya Guzman. He leaves behind a 4-year-old son.

“My son didn’t drink, didn’t do drugs,” she said Wednesday morning. “It’s not fair.”

Katherine Marie Malek, 47, was driving a dark Ford Mustang west on eastbound I-80 at Watt Avenue shortly before 10 p.m., based on a CHP report and Coroner’s Office identification. Her car sideswiped a car near Raley Boulevard before continuing on.

Malek approached Northgate Boulevard while driving in the fast lane when she slammed head-on into Bravo Maya’s Dodge Challenger. Both drivers died upon impact.

Bravo Maya worked for RPS Remodeling installing siding on homes, his mother said. The oldest of four children, he, his mother and siblings moved to West Sacramento 15 years ago from Dixon. Bravo Maya graduated from River City High School and was a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Maya Guzman said she formed an especially close bond with her son after she divorced 16 years ago from his father. She and her son supported each other through difficult times in the years that followed, she said.

“Ever since then, he’s been very close to me,” she said. “He was like my right hand.”

Bravo Maya had a 4-year-old son with a partner he was no longer with, Maya Guzman said. She said despite some distance, Bravo Maya showed his son as much love as he could when they were together.

“He wanted to show that he was there for his son,” she said. “He wanted to get a better job to provide for his son.”

Can blinking lights, reflectors stop Sacramento wrong-way drivers?

The Sacramento County Coroner’s Office is conducting toxicology tests to determine if drugs or alcohol were factors in the crash, which happened days after state officials announced steps to reduce head-on freeway crashes.

California Department of Transportation officials announced they had launched a test program in Sacramento and San Diego involving safety improvements at a handful of offramps to see if they will help reduce wrong-way freeway driving. Those changes include adding more wrong-way signs, blinking lights on some of those signs, new red pavement reflectors, and cameras.

The 17 Sacramento-area test ramps include some on Highway 80 in Yolo County and Highway 50 in Sacramento County as far east as Howe Avenue, and one on Interstate 5 downtown.

Caltrans spokesman Gilbert Mohtes-Chan said wrong-way freeway crashes are rare, but they often end in catastrophe when they do happen.

CHP officials have not said which onramp Malek used, but it appears she entered I-80 at either Watt Avenue or some point east of there, and would not have used one of the new safety test ramps.

Caltrans officials said the test program was prompted by nine wrong-way fatal crashes in Sacramento and San Diego over just a few months in 2015.

Four of them occurred in Sacramento, leaving 14 people dead in five months. All four involved intoxicated wrong-way drivers traveling at night, the state said. In San Diego, five such crashes left eight people dead.

Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty, in a letter to the Legislature, said the goal is to determine “if changing offramp pavement marking patterns and installing active warning systems can reduce wrong-way drivers’ movements.”

The Tuesday-night collision shut down eastbound Interstate 80 for more than two hours as the CHP investigated.

Bravo Maya’s family has started a GoFundMe page to help cover funeral expenses.

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets