When Gilberto Martinez buried his wife and two young children at services in Mexico City over the weekend, the grieving husband and father asked the hundreds of mourners to bring dolls and balls to salute his beloved family who died last month in a horrific car crash in Delray Beach.
Underscoring the impact the April 28 deaths of 42-year-old Veronica Raschiotto, her 8-year-old son, Diego, and her 6-year-old daughter, Mia, had in the sprawling city thousands of miles away, more than 3,000 toys were collected to be given to orphans in hopes some good can come from the senseless tragedy, attorney Scott Smith said Tuesday.
In an emotional press conference, Smith tried to express the enormity of the loss for Martinez, an intellectual property attorney, who didn’t join his wife and children for the trip to Delray that was supposed to be a carefree reunion between his family and his Argentina-born wife’s 79-year-old mother and three siblings.
Instead as his wife, two children and his wife’s 50-year-old brother, Jorge Claudio Raschiotto, were driving home after spending the day at Deerfield Beach, their 2018 Dodge minivan was struck from behind by a speeding Chevy Silverado driven by 21-year-old Paul Streater of Delray Beach. Martinez’s wife, children and brother-in-law were declared dead at the scene.
“He is devastated,” Smith said of Martinez. “It’s difficult for him to talk. If one brings up his wife’s name or the names of his children he immediately becomes overcome with grief, sorrow and pain.”
Occasionally pausing to choke back tears himself, Smith said he is committed to finding out what caused the crash.
“The loss of four lives in a single motor vehicle crash is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated,” he said. “It is unnatural to die from something other than natural causes and it is entirely unacceptable for four human beings to lose their lives in a violent rear-end collision.”
While it is not unusual for attorneys to call a press conference to announce they have filed a lawsuit in connection with a fatal crash, it is unusual for an attorney to summon reporters to say they plan to file suit months, even years, from now.
Smith said he took the unconventional step to encourage anyone who witnessed the crash, knows Streater or has any information about the sale, purchase or repairs of Streater’s 2010 Silverado to contact Delray Beach police or his law firm.
“It is my personal intention to turn over every possible stone for Gilberto, to dig a hole underneath every overturned stone and then to tunnel amongst every one of those holes as the real truth and the science of such real truth often do not lie on the surface,” Smith said.
Delray Beach police won’t complete their investigation for months. But, in a preliminary report released Monday, they said Streater claims the gas pedal of his roughly two-ton truck became stuck as he was travelling south on Federal Highway near Lamat Avenue. Reaching speeds of up to 100 mph and unable to stop, he said he weaved in and out of traffic until the Silverado struck the rear of a minivan that was waiting to turn east into the Tropic Isle community where Martinez’s wife and her family had rented a home for a long weekend getaway.
The force of the impact was so intense that the two vehicles became locked together, Smith said. They moved as one into the northbound lane where the mangled mass of metal was struck by a Buick Encore with Natalia Barber and her son Christopher Barber of Boca Raton inside. None of the others involved in the crash were seriously injured.
Smith said his investigation, like the one being conducted by Delray Beach police, will explore all aspects of the crash. Smith said he has been in touch with Streater’s attorney, Sam Halpern. Police have said Streater and a passenger in the truck, 25-year-old Tyler Fowler, are cooperating with investigators. Streater voluntarily submitted to a blood-alcohol test, the results of which will be completed within about six weeks.
Smith said he suspects drugs and alcohol weren’t a factor in the crash. But, he insists, something went horribly wrong.
“Whether this tragic crash was caused by the reckless driving conduct of another, a defective product caused by a design or manufacturing defect or some other cause will ultimately be determined by and with a thorough investigation and analysis,” he said. “I will file a lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Martinez.”
Martinez and his lost loved ones deserve it, he said.
Vernonica Raschiotto was an accountant and comptroller in the Mexico City office of Hines, a global real estate firm, and gave her time to build homes for the less fortunate, Smith said. Her brother, Jorge, was on the faculty at the National University of Lomas de Zamora in Buenos Aires, according to Argentinian press accounts. The two children were just beginning their lives — their futures limitless, Smith said.
Now, Martinez is trying to adjust to life without his loved ones. Trips to World Cup soccer games and sking vacations never to be taken. Ballet and piano recitals and spelling bees never to attend.
“Gilberto is devastated,” Smith said. “His grief and sorrow are emotionally and physically painful. The loss of his entire family at the same exact moment in time is beyond all human comprehension.”
Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call Delray Beach police at 561-243-7888 or Smith’s firm at 561-655-1990.