Kindergarten teacher killed by suspected drunk driver in Huntington Park

HUNTINGTON PARK, Calif. (KABC) -- The family of a beloved teacher killed by a suspected drunk driver shared a tearful plea Tuesday night.

Joyce Sonnier, 37, taught pre-K and kindergarten at Redeemer Lutheran School in South Gate.

She was driving with her mom and 8-year-old son Orlando on Nov. 13 near Otis Avenue and Santa Ana Street in Huntington Park -- just a block from home -- when police say a driver ran a red light and smashed into them -- triggering a five-car pileup.

Sonnier was killed, and her mother was still in critical condition and undergoing a fifth surgery. Somehow her son suffered only scratches.

Her family and students were rocked by the tragedy.

"She was just like a joyful teacher. I got a lot of comments from students saying that she helped them get through some of their obstacles," said Amy Adame, the victim's niece. "She was basically there as a mother to them as well. And it just hurts me to see that my cousin is going to be without a mother."

The other driver, 22-year-old Isaac Gracias, was arrested and faces DUI and manslaughter charges.

Huntington Park police are also investigating if he was street racing.

Sonnier's family set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for memorial services. To donate, click here.
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