Accident kills Fresno County parents, leaves 3 kids without parents

BySontaya Rose KFSN logo
Monday, December 21, 2015
Family trying to cope after car accident kills husband and wife and leaves 3 children without their parents
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Matthew and Sharnae Cuellar, along with their 3 daughters, were on their way home when they were killed in a crash on a country road.

KINGSBURG, Calif. -- Matthew and Sharnae Cuellar along with their three daughters were on their way home Thursday when the couple was killed in a crash on a country road.

Matthew had just turned 26 earlier this month and Sharnae was looking forward to celebrating her 26th birthday the day after Christmas. The two leave behind three little girls.

Five-year-old Angelina has a major head injury and has undergone several surgeries. She doesn't know yet that her parents were both killed instantly in the crash.

The Cuellar family was having a wonderful holiday season until Thursday night when Stephanie Cuellar-Arthur heard her son, his wife, and their three children were involved in a deadly crash.

"The past hours have been-- I can't even explain. How my heart is just torn and broken," Stephanie Cuellar-Arthur said.

Just last weekend, Stephanie celebrated Christmas with the family. Sharnae spoke to her mother-in-law hours before her life would end to let her know a playground set she ordered for the kids had arrived.

"She told me she was going to get back to me and I never heard from her. I just figured, you know, she's like, I have to go pick up Matt in a little bit so she said I will have Matt call you," Stephanie said.

Matt never called. His mother was notified by text message that the family was involved in a crash. She drove straight to Fresno from her home in Placerville. She always warned her son about the dangers of country roads.

"I'd always tell him every morning, please be careful of the fog. Just be careful of the back roads. I really hated that he worked way out there," Stephanie said.

Sharnae had just picked up Matt from his job at Harris Ranch, where he was a meat packer. The whole family was in the car when California Highway Patrol Officers said a white Chevy pickup traveling at an unknown speed slammed into the Civic.

"For unknown reasons, the driver of the white pickup crossed over the center median into the eastbound lane and collided with the gray Honda Civic head on," said Sgt. Mike Trenholm, California Highway Patrol.

Another passenger in the car, Sharnae's cousin, also survived the crash.

The focus now is making sure the couple's daughters are taken care of. Three-year-old Ava and two-year-old Neveah had minor injuries from the crash, but their sister remains in critical condition and has a long journey ahead.

"She had brain surgery last night, where they released the pressure in her brain and put some tubes in. She also had facial reconstruction on her face as well," Stephanie said.

The California Highway Patrol said the driver of the pickup may have been under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash.

He is also in the hospital with two broken legs and a broken hip.