Train Death Devastates Man’s Family

By Tony Burchyns
Morgan Hill
– The family of the young Morgan Hill man killed by a train
Wednesday evening is facing yet another heartbreaking situation:
Victor Sandoval’s siblings will not be allowed to attend his
funeral Thursday.
Morgan Hill – The family of the young Morgan Hill man killed by a train Wednesday evening is facing yet another heartbreaking situation: Victor Sandoval’s siblings will not be allowed to attend his funeral Thursday.

In an exclusive interview with the Morgan Hill Times, Sandoval’s mother, Adriana Proa, said her three younger children, who live with foster families in San Diego, are not legally permitted to attend their brother’s funeral this week. Child Protective Services will not allow the visit.

On Wednesday, Sandoval, 18, was hit by a train and killed. He had been hanging out with a small group of friends, some of them in their early 20s, some of them teenagers. They had been drinking at their usual spot, near the skate park on Butterfield Boulevard.

Sandoval’s family is devastated. To make matters worse, his relatives – including his mother, who lives in Morgan Hill – probably have no idea whether his siblings, ages 14, 12 and 6, know their older brother was dead.

A social worker in Hollister would not allow the family to make direct phone calls to the children, and doing so without permission could endanger Proa’s visitation rights. She has served a six-month jail sentence for drug-related charges, and completed a series of court-ordered substance abuse and parenting classes.

Reeling from their loss, Sandoval’s family now feels bitter and anxious. They see the opportunity to say good-bye to Sandoval as a whole family being missed.

Proa feels shunned. She insists she has gotten her life together.

“I have two jobs. I work all the time. (Child Protective Services) knows everything about me,” said Proa, 38, who was last allowed to speak with her San Diego children in March.

Sandoval’s father, who spent three and a half years in prison also for drug-related charges, now lives in Hollister. A court order also prevents him from having contact with the children.

Stephen Pierce, deputy director of social services for San Benito County Health and Human Services Agency, would not acknowledge the case for confidentiality reasons. Pierce said regulations pertaining to Child Protective Services require the agency to act in the children’s best interest. Children removed from their parents’ homes are assessed individually.

“(Hypothetically) something like this is extremely painful for the whole family, but we have to focus the needs of the children,” Pierce said. “Any time something like this happens, the social worker feels anguish.”

Relatives say Sandoval’s relationship with his siblings was close. He visited them whenever he could. He had wanted them to be together.

“The only thing that really bothered him was that his brothers and sister weren’t here,” said Cesar Navarro, Sandoval’s 16-year-old cousin who lives in Morgan Hill. “That was the only thing that ever brought a tear to his eye.”

Sandoval had been living a troubled life apart from his three siblings since 2003, when the foursome was split into two foster homes.

Around that time, he started acting out, drinking heavily at times to mask his depression. His troubles with alcohol eventually led to a nine-month stint at Walden House, a rehab center in San Francisco. He was released in 2005 to his aunt in Hollister, according to the family.

About two months ago, after his 18th birthday, Sandoval moved in with his mother as a legal adult. He planned to enroll in Central Continuation High School in Morgan Hill this year, to earn his diploma. Previously, he had attended San Benito High School and San Andreas High School, both in Hollister.

His mother said Sandoval had been working for a temp agency, giving her money. He often talked of becoming a firefighter. He was a “good boy,” she said.

Despite Sandoval’s struggles with alcohol, Navarro said his cousin was a hard worker when he set his mind to it. He believes Sandoval would have lived a long and happy life.

“He made plans for his future,” Navarro said. “All we ever talked about was what me and him were going to do together. We wanted to buy our moms houses, have our kids around the same time. I was naming my kid after him; he was naming his kid after me. We were supposed to get old together.”

Navarro was with Sandoval the night he was killed. After the terrible accident, Navarro tried to run to Sandoval’s body, but was detained by the police. He started “fisting and fighting” with them, he said, and they took him in to the police station. He was later released to his family, devastated.

“Every day we’d just hang out,” Navarro said of his cousin, one of his closest friends. “He’d always have a smile on his face.”

Those wishing to contribute to the Victor Sandoval Memorial Fund to help his family pay for funeral expenses may send checks made out to the fund to any Washington Mutual Bank branch.

Reach staff writer Tony Burchyns at [email protected]

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