CALIFORNIA- If it weren’t for a flat tire Friday, a Santa Clara family would have been dropped off at the airport, gotten on a plane and flown out for a holiday visit with their relatives in Texas.
Instead, the unexpected rupture left them stranded on the shoulder of Interstate 280 north of Edgewood Road and in the path of a driver who veered from his lane and slammed into them. The collision killed mother Manjit Kaur, 48; her son, Manpreet Singh, 28; and daughter, Jasdeep Kaur, 21. Father and husband Amarjit Singh Multani, 56, survived the impact.
Jarnail Singh, 26, the only member of the family not in the car, said Sunday he was thankful his father had been spared, but was left overcome beneath the weight of the loss.
“Half my family is dead,” he said. “I’m barely holding myself together.”
The horrific tragedy has brought family — spread from Amritsar, India, to Dallas, Texas — and friends streaming to the Santa Clara home Jarnail Singh shared with his family. They plan to hold a memorial this week.
Manpreet Singh drove away from his job as a manager Friday afternoon at a San Jose gym, Bay Area Family Fitness, in order to take his sister, mother and father to San Francisco International Airport for their flight to Dallas. The plan was for him to drop them off and head back to work. But somehow the sister’s 1997 Lexus ended up with a flat tire, forcing them to the shoulder along the center divider around 3:10 p.m.
All four family members were in the car as they prepared to call for help, said Singh. Then from behind them came G.A. Smith, 82, of San Jose, who was alone and behind the wheel of a 2013 Volkswagen SUV. Police said he was travelling at a “high rate of speed” and plowed into the Lexus. Smith is under investigation for possible charges stemming from the collision.
Smith was hospitalized Saturday with serious injuries and underwent surgery, said California Highway Patrol Officer Art Montiel. Smith was not under arrest and his condition was not immediately available.
The crash, unfortunately, was horribly similar to one that took place Nov. 23 — a popular shopping day known as Black Friday. The Tandel family, of San Bruno, was returning home in a gold Lexus SUV from an all-night shopping spree in Gilroy at the outlet stores.
Authorities said the father, Arvind Tandel, 48, may have fallen asleep at the wheel as he drove directly into a squad car parked on the side of Highway 101 in Palo Alto.
Killed were Arvind’s daughters, TaSheetal Tandel, 20, and Nisha Tandel, 24. Four other Tandel family members were hurt, including Arvind’s wife, Yogita Tandel, 34; another sister, Payal Tandel, 22; and a 12-year-old sister who wasn’t named. All were rushed to Stanford Hospital and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center after the crash.
In the aftermath of Saturday’s crash, Singh reflected sadly on the abbreviated lives of his family.
He spoke gently of his brother, whose humor and smile will be missed by his many friends. He dreamed of opening his own gym.
His mother, despite the family’s tight finances, was a woman who always helped people in need. And his sister was looking forward to finishing her business degree at Cal State East Bay and starting her own company.
“She hadn’t even seen life yet,” he said. Singh said he, his sister, brother and mother were brought to the United States from Amritsar, India, in 2001 by their father.
Anyone who would like to help with burial expenses may contact the Sikh Temple of Fremont at 510-790-0177 or the temple in San Jose at 408-274-9373.