Crime - Sacto 911

9-year-old survivor of horrific Lodi crash recovering slowly

Eden Miranda lost his parents and his siblings, suffered head injuries, broken legs and liver damage in a horrific auto crash in Lodi last month that landed a suspect under arrest to face six second-degree murder charges.

But the little 9-year-old who loves school and soccer is far from beaten. This past weekend, he ventured out of the house in a wheelchair for the first time, and has been keeping up with his schoolwork through regular visits from his teacher.

“He’s doing really well,” said Christine Malandro, principal at Heritage Primary Elementary School in Lodi. “He’s very bright. He’s a very resilient child. He just really wants to get back to school right away. That’s his goal.”

On Tuesday, exactly three weeks since the crash caused by a suspected drunken driver, a member of the Miranda family sat for media interviews at the Mexican consulate in Sacramento to offer an update on Eden’s progress and the long road of recovery ahead of the little boy.

But there still is no decision on what will happen to Eden or where he will end up living.

“We don’t know yet,” his uncle, 30-year-old Felipe Miranda, said in an interview. “We’re waiting for his grandparents to come so we can have a dialogue that will determine what we will do.”

The crash killed Luis Miranda Ochoa, 32; his wife, Viviana Rodriguez Saldado, 31, who was seven months pregnant; and three of their children, 12-year-old Irvin, 6-year-old Jose and 5-year-old Stephanie.

Police say the deaths were caused by Ryan Christopher Morales, a 28-year-old ex-con who they say had been drinking vodka with his father the afternoon of Oct. 22 before speeding down a Lodi street at rush hour in an SUV and smashing into the Mirandas’ pickup truck. Morales, who had been recovering from injuries at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento, was arrested Friday and moved to a Lodi hospital. He was then booked Saturday into the San Joaquin County jail.

Morales faces six counts of second-degree murder and six counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and Lodi police said additional charges are possible.

Felipe Miranda, speaking through a translator, said his brother and family were killed just after picking up Irvin at Lodi Middle School that Tuesday afternoon and that he learned of it from a phone call he received the next day from a family friend.

Miranda said his brother came to Lodi in 2001 to work in the farm fields, and he and a cousin are now the family members left in the area.

Eden did not remember anything from the crash, Miranda said, and the duty of telling Eden about what had happened to his parents and his siblings fell to him.

“I told him while at the hospital, but he gets really sad if we talk about this, and I don’t want to make him sad so we don’t talk about it,” he said.

Eden is currently living with his godmother in Lodi. With the passage of time, Miranda said, Eden now seems happy and anxious to get back to school, but he has many long-term needs for his physical and mental rehabilitation.

The family has set up a trust fund overseen by the consulate and Stockton attorney Douglas Gessell to help pay for Eden’s needs and defray expenses of getting airfare, passports and other paperwork prepared for Miranda’s parents and Viviana’s mother to fly to the United States, something expected to happen in the next 10 days. Donations can be made at branches of BBVA Compass bank to the Miranda Family Funeral, Account No. 10877761.

“We’ve set up a system whereby there are at least two signers for each check and all of the funds are going to be run through the consulate just to make sure that everything is spent appropriately,” Gessell said. “The primary focus of all the funds is going to be on Eden, on his medical treatment and his physical therapy.”

“He has a lifetime of very difficult challenges ahead of him,” Gessell added. “Obviously, he won’t have his parents to help him out with that.”

Miranda said the tragedy has affected him deeply. “It’s very painful, unexpected,” he said.

But he added that the tremendous outpouring of support from people in Lodi and elsewhere has helped.

“The Lodi community has been hurting, and they have been trying to help my family in every way possible,” Miranda said.

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