Angel Gabriel Sixtos wasn’t supposed to be in the car.
Though he didn’t go out often, the 18-year-old decided to attend a friend’s birthday party Sunday night, according to his family.
The party lasted into the early hours of Monday morning, and when he was ready to go home, Sixtos texted his family to tell them as much, and they ordered him an Uber, his sister Cristina Clemons said.
But his friends persuaded Sixtos to hang out with them a little longer, with the promise that they would take him home, Clemons said.
He never made it.
Authorities say Sixtos, along with George Dobbs, 15, Ariahh Slemaker, 15, Eduardo Cruz, 18, and Sebastian Peredia, 16, were killed Monday when the vehicle they were in slammed into an attenuator on the 710 Freeway just after 4 a.m. A sixth person in the car was hospitalized with major injuries.
That morning, Clemons got a call from her mother saying Sixtos hadn’t returned from the party. Clemons hadn’t heard from him, but she said it wasn’t out of the ordinary for him to stay over at a friend’s house.
Still worried, Clemons began contacting people who had been at the party to try to track down Sixtos. That’s when she heard about the crash.
The family contacted police who connected them to the Medical-Examiner’s office.
“It broke our hearts,” Clemons said about finding out her brother was killed in the crash. “We didn’t want to believe it was him.”
It’s still not clear what caused the crash, but authorities said earlier this week that the car was overloaded, with six people in a vehicle that had only five seats, and it appeared not everyone was wearing a seatbelt. Dash camera video from another car on the road also appears to show the vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed compared to other motorists.
“It was a tragic accident,” Clemons said. “But we just want to remember him as the person he was.”
Sixtos’ mother, Carmen Manzano, lost not only her son but a best friend, according to her family.
“He always put my mom’s feelings above anyone else,” Clemons said. “They did everything together.”
Most of his days consisted of helping his mom cook or plant flowers in the garden, Clemons said. He was also working toward getting his GED and had recently gotten a job to help their mom pay the bills.
Since finding out about his death, Manzano has sat by her door, hoping against hope that her son will walk in and ask her why she’s crying, Clemons said.
Sixtos shared a similar bond with his sisters, always checking up on them and asking how they were doing, Clemons said.
To his family, Sixtos was a kind-hearted, trustworthy protector who looked after everyone.
He was the person that lit up the room and could make everyone laugh, his sisters said.
“He wanted us to be together as a family,” Clemons said. “He tied our family together.”
Before Sixtos’ death, he and another sister, Laura Clemons, were planning on taking their driving permit tests together. He was excited to be able to drive his mom around, Laura Clemons said.
They made the appointment for Tuesday and bet $20 on who would pass first.
But instead of taking the test, Laura Clemons headed to the morgue Tuesday to identify her brother’s body.
“I always thought we’d be 80 years old and still living,” she said. The reality that those plans won’t happen has yet to sink in, she said. “I still believe he’s going to call me.”
Sixtos’ family has started a GoFundMe to help with the cost of funeral expenses. It has raised nearly $3,000 out of the $35,000 goal as of Thursday morning.