It’s been said that a picture speaks a thousand words. The photos
posted and shared at Marcello’s memorial reflected such thoughts as
A Blessing. Nearly three years after 2 month old Marcello Vasquez’s death,
his parents Jimmy and Natasha, received $500,000 in a
wrongful death settlement from the Los Angeles City Council. While nothing can replace the loss
of a child, nor can a price be placed on the life of a child, the Vasquez
family feels as if they can finally move forward after losing their infant
son in a tragic accident.
It was a warm July evening in downtown Los Angeles when hundreds of people,
young and old, came out to celebrate an Art Walk and indulge in local
foods from food trucks. Music, laughter, and an overwhelming feeling of
celebration and community togetherness filled the streets of downtown
L.A. A young couple, with their 2 month old son, visited with family and
showed off their new baby; a beautiful boy with slick black hair, long
eye lashes, and a flawless complexion slept peacefully in the stroller
despite the hustle and bustle of the crowds gathered on the sidewalks.
A seemingly perfect evening turned into a parent’s worst nightmare
within a matter of seconds.
A witness, at the event, said, "The nature of the evening immediately
shifted from revelry to chaos."
Shortly after 9pm, Tyrell Chandler, who was driving his girlfriend’s
Cadillac DeVille without a driver’s license, was attempting to parallel
park on the crowded street. Instead of braking, Chandler hit the accelerator,which forced the vehicle to roll up over the curb. Chandler struck a parking meter,
hit two pedestrians, and hit the stroller that Marcello Vasquez was in, knocking it to the
ground. The infant was taken to the hospital and was pronounced dead,
from the injuries he sustained, the following day.
The accident left the young parents with unanswered questions and limited
financial funds to bury their beloved son, a child who had graced their
lives for such a short time. Almost a year after the tragic accident,
Chandler pleaded guilty to reckless driving causing great bodily injury
and received three years probation and was ordered to pay restitution
to the grieving family. While Chandler was held accountable for his careless
mistakes, the city of Los Angeles and Art Walk agreed to offer the Vasquez
family a settlement in honor of the infant, who would be three years old
In a press release, the Art Walk Executive Director Qathryn Brehm explained,
"Art Walk does not believe it was in any way responsible for the
accident which was caused by a third party (Chandler), but agreed to honor
this settlement in an effort to resolve the case and move forward."
To further honor the memory of
Marcello Vasquez, the organizers of Art Walk have decided to provide a plaque memorializing
the infant; the parents will decide where the plaque will be placed and
what will be on the memorial stone. Many Art Walk patrons were emotionally
moved by the tragic event, but don’t think that Art Walk was responsible
for Marcello’s death.
One Art Walk supporter explained, "It’s congested, but I don’t
feel like it’s unsafe…I feel bad that this happened, but
I hope it doesn’t change the event."
While Art Walk is not solely responsible for Marcello’s death, they
have reconsidered patron’s safety on the sidewalks. As a result,
crowd sizes on the sidewalks has been decreased and monitored, as well
as making sure the traffic flow on sidewalks remains fluid. Additionally,
food trucks have been moved to a separate, nearby location to eliminate
unnecessary crowd congestion.
Waiting for Retribution
Each year, thousands of families are affected by a wrongful death and can
wait a lengthy period of time, up to years, before they receive any compensation
or witness retribution against the party responsible for a loved one’s
death. The Cornell University Law School defines a wrongful death simply,
however, it’s usually anything but simple and is often difficult
to determine how long the process will take.
A wrongful death is "caused by the wrongful act of another, either
accidentally or intentionally. A claim for wrongful death is made by a
family member of a deceased person to obtain compensation for having to
live without that person….intended to cover the earning and the
emotional comfort and support the deceased person would have provided."
Wrongful death claims can stem anywhere from medical malpractice to automobile
accidents to traumatic brain injuries. The Institute of Medicine reports
that an estimated 98,000 die each year due to medical errors or negligence
while the Brain Injury Association of America reports that more than 50,000
people die due to a traumatic brain injury.
Thousands of people fall victim to preventable accidents and each year,
mourning family and friends wait and fight to seek justice for the person
they lost to a tragic accident. Like the Vasquez family, some families
wait years to settle a wrongful death claim, while others are never fortunate
enough to close that painful chapter and move forward.
The attorney, Jonathan Dennis, who represented the Vasquez’s claim
was pleased that his clients could move forward after winning their settlement.
Jimmy and Natasha Vasquez will never have the chance to watch their son,
Marcello, grow up, but they will have the memories of an infant who graced
their lives, albeit briefly.
"It was an unfortunate accident," says Dennis, "but the
family is happy the city has resolved the case…as they can move