Three members of the Anderson family — James Anderson, 49; Emma “Gabby” Anderson, 44; and Andrew Anderson, 15 — and the driver of the other vehicle, James Rowell, 40, died at the scene of the accident Aug. 24. The fourth member of the Anderson family, James “Jimmy” Anderson, 24, was taken by helicopter to Doctors Medical Center of Modesto.
Though he survived, Jimmy Anderson is paralyzed from the neck down and is expected to undergo major surgery within the next week, according to reports from his uncle, Scott Anderson. Doctors have told the family the young man is likely to regain use of his arms with therapy, his uncle said.
The crash occurred while the Anderson family was on the way to dinner to celebrate Jimmy’s birthday and visit from law school in Wisconsin, friends and family have said.
Less than a mile from town, a white van ran a stop sign on Elm Avenue and broadsided the family’s sport-utility vehicle, causing both vehicles to spin out of control and the SUV to crash into a palm tree on the north side of Las Palmas Avenue, the California Highway Patrol reported.
Toxicology reports to determine whether alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash have not been released, but there was no indication that either driver was under the influence, CHP spokesman John Martinez said.
The aftermath of the crash has reverberated throughout the community, for the loss of all parties who were killed in the crash.
Andrew Anderson, who was a freshman at Patterson High School, was remembered in a candlelight vigil Thursday, Aug. 26, for his vibrant smile and warm personality by hundreds at the school.
“Andrew’s death has had a profound impact on our students and staff,” Principal Dave Stubbs said. “He was a student who transcended traditional high school cliques and was well-liked and respected by all of our students…. Andrew’s passing has brought students together in this time of mourning, and he will be dearly missed by the Patterson High School family.”
James Anderson, a Redskins youth football coach, and Gabby Anderson were remembered by James’ brother, Scott Anderson, as selfless and dedicated people who would give anything for their children.
Although they had struggled with a sour economy in the past year — losing their home to foreclosure and James’ job before he recently gained employment as a truck driver — Scott Anderson said they never let that change how they provided for their sons.
“Everything they did was for the sake of the boys,” he said. “They sacrificed a lot to make it easier on them, but they both did it so graciously.”
The death of the driver of the other vehicle, James Rowell, although perhaps less known in the community, struck his loved ones just as hard, said friend Andrew Chavez.
Chavez described Rowell as a dedicated friend and a true cowboy who helped on his family’s ranch, Rancho Chavez Mesquite No. 2 in Crows Landing.
“I’m still very torn about the situation and how it happened, but that doesn’t change what kind of guy James was,” he said. “He was just a good old country dude who would give anything to help you when you needed it. He had a goofy laugh and great smile that I’m going to miss seeing every day.”
Andrew Chavez’s sister, Monica Chavez , echoed that sentiment.
“What I will remember most about James is how much gratitude he left us all with,” she said. “He was such a good guy who would do anything for others and not ask for much in return.”
Services for Rowell will be Sept. 12, with the time and place to be confirmed later.
A public service for the Andersons is planned for Sept. 18 in the Patterson High School gymnasium, and a private service that Jimmy can attend will take place soon, Scott Anderson confirmed. A time for the public service has not yet been determined.
Bank of the West has set up a memorial account for contributions that will help with medical bills and funeral costs for the Anderson family. Donations may be made at any Bank of the West branch by mentioning the Anderson Family Memorial Fund.
“This is a tragedy, no matter how you look at it,” Scott Anderson said. “Everybody wants somebody to blame, but irregardless, it is what it is, and blaming won’t change what happened.”
• Contact Kendall Wright at 892-6187 or firstname.lastname@example.org.