Friends and family mourn four lost in car crash
by Kendall Wright | Patterson Irrigator
Sep 02, 2010 | 6276 views | 7 7 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Memorials, flowers and tributes adorn the base of a palm tree on Las Palmas Avenue where four people died in a crash last week. 
--photo by Elias Funez/Patterson Irrigator
view slideshow (5 images)
Though a small bouquet is all that’s left at Elm and East Las Palmas avenues to mark the two-car accident that took the lives of four Patterson residents there, the raw wound the loss has left is only slowly beginning to mend more than a week later for friends and family.

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

Comments-icon Post a Comment
September 04, 2010
I hope the toxicology reports give us some answers. It just seems so wrong for someone to drive through on purpose. If not intoxicated, they would have to be suicidal. I do not know any of the parties involved and dont mean to defend anyone...its just a hard pill to swallow. My deepest sympothies to the Anderson familiy and friends.
September 03, 2010
Again, in this new case I highly suspect that the sun had nothing to do with it. Had that been the case, I think that maybe the driver would have stopped to check on the person she hit. I hope that a driver involved in a real accident would check on the person they hit.

(According to NOAA, the sun set about 45 minutes before the accident - so I doubt that anyone driving West at the time of the accident would have had the sun in their eyes - Sunset approx 6:31PM, accident approximately 7:15PM)

Instead, due to her driving at an "unsafe speed", which she chose to do, she killed a bicyclist. After hitting him, she chooses to go home.

She then chooses to call the police to lie to them, reporting that she thought she hit a dog. While talking to the police, the truth comes out, and, according to the article, she admits that not only did she hit a bicyclist, she stopped, looked back and saw the him lying in the road. (A good citizen would have gone back to check on him, but that thought can be left for another discussion) Next she leaves to go home.

It is all about choices. She made some very poor choices, before, during and then after she killed the man. She didn't want to accept responsibility for her actions.

The Anderson's died in a senseless act by someone that made choices that killed them, the innocent victims. In the same manner, this new killer did the same, made choices that not only killed someone, but she even tried real hard to not have to accept responsibility for her actions by leaving the scene and then lying to the police.

When people decide to drive, they are responsible for their driving. If someone can't see well enough after dark to drive responsibly and safely, THEY SHOULDN'T GET BEHIND THE WHEEL!!! It's not about being able to see, it is about acting on that knowledge and NOT DRIVING if you can't see.

September 03, 2010
So it seems I misread the story , the part about the van "failing" to stop. I guess I dont want to believe any person, who is not high, drunk or suicidal, would intentionally drive through that or any intersection. There would have to be more to that story for me to believe that. Everday I drive that, and all of the arteries coming into Patterson, and it never fails, some Dill Hole pulls out right in front of me. Do I think they want to die - NO. Do I think they want to kill me - NO. Do I think they are in a hurry like the rest of us - YES. I also think this was a Horrible tragedy for ALL involved, especially the innocent victems. That being said, I still believe its very difficult to see to the west that time of day, just ask the woman who hit the bicyclist...Just dont ask her what she hit.
September 02, 2010
localvoice - I think what you said is exactly what was said in the previous post. The previous post was a bit more politically correct than yours.

It comes down to this. Rowell chose, he made a conscience decision, to go out a drive in a manner that would kill someone, in his case, three people and cripple another. He may not have intended to kill them, but, as they say, his actions speak louder than words. By his actions alone, the moniker of murderer very easily can be applied in this case. While driving up Elm, approaching Las Palmas, he had a decision to make. "Do I stop and look?" Or, "Do I press the gas and fly through, killing whatever is in my way?" We all know which decision he made. God or the sun didn't send him through that intersection, his decision to step on the gas did. There is no other way to describe it. If there is another explanation, it escapes me. I saw the pictures and heard about the impact and damage. That was not caused by someone entering the intersection from a stop.

And yes, I also have thought many times since the accident that that easily could have been me and my family in the place of the Andersons. If you add up the number of times that members of my family pass that intersection on a weekly basis, the count would be high. With work, trips to Modesto or Turlock for school events, shopping, outings, and so on. Just this week, members of my family have passed that intersection, in to town or out of town, 18 times. (If only we could all get on the same schedule.)

I know that I am a lot more vigilant driving now, monitoring the side streets a little more carefully now.

September 02, 2010
first of all, everyone needs to stop dancing around the truth! I completely agree with the last opinion that rowell is to blame. but it goes even further than that. rowell lived here, he knows the has nothing to do with the sun. this man murdered three people and paralyzed a fourth victim. he was flying through the area, did not make an attempt to stop, although the victim's vehicle left quite the skidmarks. i dont really care if people say he was a "good guy"(that character assesment is questionable, at best)i dont care if they want to say he was drunk or high or depressed or suicidal...he is a murderer!!! his actions were so much worse than wreckless, careless or negligient. his actions were intentional, and that makes it murder. he just used a car to do it!

although we all know in our hearts that this is an honest statement, i am sure there will be a lot of uproar and protest. why do we as a society feel we should protect the criminals? he didnt care enough about protecting his family & friends feelings, or he wouldn't have done something so malicious that they would have to get their feelings hurt hearing about it. how about protecting the victims and their family and friends? the Andersons should be protected. why does it cut so deep? because we all know that it could have been any one of us, driving down las palmas, minding our own business, headed for a celebratory dinner with our family. any one of us could be taken that simply in a split second because of an idiot who couldn't care less about taking another person's life.

unfortunately when we do state the truth, we need to fear retaliation. for that reason alone, i sign with just my moniker.

local voice
September 02, 2010
The problem with blaming God or the Sun is that the speed with which the impact was made, neither God or the Sun played any part in Rowell going through that intersection. With his rate of speed, he wasn't even going to look East or West to see if there was traffic. He decided to go through without worry about anyone being in the way.

I agree that looking to get through those intersections can be tough at times, but for this accident, that isn't the case. He intended to go through without stopping, even if it killed him and others, which, very unfortunately, it did.

September 02, 2010
looking to blame someone, blame God or the Sun Directly. Have you ever tried to cross on any East\West street at that time of day ? Very sad for all indeed, noone wanted that !

We encourage your online comments in this public forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a forum for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Readers may report such inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at