Estefania Soto was going about her day in the most typical of ways on Tuesday morning. She bundled her young daughter, Kaliyah, 7, into their Nissan Sentra and was headed south on Highway 12 from their Boyes Hot Springs home to Sassarini Elementary School.
At 7:45 a.m., a suspected drunken pickup driver collided head-on with her sedan near London Way in Agua Caliente, killing Soto instantly. Her daughter remains in critical condition at Children’s Hospital Oakland, according to a relative.
The Ford pickup driver, Jose Manuel Lopez-Perez, 25, of Santa Rosa, was seen by witnesses crossing over solid double yellow lines into the eastbound lane to pass other vehicles prior to hitting the Sentra, collapsing the smaller vehicle’s front end, according to the CHP.
Kaliyah Ava Rose Adkins was riding in a pink booster seat in the back of the car, She wasn’t breathing when she was pulled from the sedan by bystanders, said Sonoma Valley Fire Chief Steve Akre. The group laid her on the ground and started CPR, possibly saving her life, he said.
“What they did was truly heroic. It made a huge impact on the outcome and gave (the 7-year-old) a chance to live,” Akre said.
Sonoma Valley firefighters were on duty at the nearby Agua Caliente station and arrived to find the pickup truck engulfed in flames and the driver outside the vehicle. The highway was littered with debris and rescuers.
Kaliyah was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and later flown to Children’s Hospital Oakland.
Lopez-Perez was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with life-threatening injuries. He remained there Wednesday afternoon. Lopez-Perez was previously arrested in December 2016, for driving without a license, unsafe passing and driving without insurance. According to court dockets, was convicted only of being unlicensed, paid a $220 fine and was released.
Soto was born and raised in Sonoma and attended Sonoma Valley High School and Creekside High School. She had been working as a sylist at both Crush Beauty Bar and Peace N Beauty Salon.
“She loved her work and her co-workers,” said a relative who asked not to be identified.
Dozens of clients and co-workers have posted memories of Soto and notes of sadness and prayers for Kaliyah on the Crush Facebook page.
Sassarini provided grief counseling to its school families this week, and Kaliyah’s relative said she was touched that the little girl’s second grade teacher came to visit her in the hospital in Oakland.
“Our hearts and thoughts remain with Kaliyah and her family during this time,” said Sassarini principal Andrew Ryan said in an email. “We want Kaliyah to know that she has a great deal of people who care and love her here on campus and in our community.”
A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 22 at Duggan’s Funeral Home at 525 W. Napa St.
Note: This article was edited to reflect that the service above is the only one that will be open to the public.
Contact Lorna Sheridan at email@example.com. With additional reporting by Nick Rahaim.