Sacto 9-1-1
October 10, 2012
Boy, 6, remains in coma, older brother released after car struck both
Henry_Perez.jpg  Juan_Perez.jpg

By Kim Minugh
kminugh@sacbee.com

Little Juan Perez-Rocha (above, right) is finally out of the hospital, but he keeps wanting to go back.

That's where his little brother, 6-year-old Henry (above, left), remains, still slumbering in a coma that set in when the two boys were struck by a car while walking to school Friday morning.

Eight-year-old Juan seems to understand what's going on around him, said the boys' aunt, Candice Perez, and he wants to be there for his brother.

"He's very emotional," she said of the older boy.

So, too, are their parents. Perez said they are still traumatized, especially the boys' mother, who was walking them to Skycrest Elementary in Citrus Heights when the out-of-control car careened into her sons, sending their bodies flying.

"She's not doing very well," Perez said of her sister-in-law.

The community, however, has sprung into action. The school is hosting a carwash Saturday morning to raise funds to help the family cover medical costs, bills and whatever else they need.

A whole city away, 17-year-old Xavier Reyes is hosting another carwash that day.

The Hiram Johnson High School student has no connection to the family. But he said he saw the news on television and felt inspired to help. He walked to Frank's Used Tires, where he'd seen other carwashes held, and asked if he could organize one there, too.

"Medical bills are, like, really, really expensive," said Reyes, a cadet in the school's ROTC program. "It's not a good time right now, with the economy."

A trust fund also has been set up to help the boys' family.

Perez said her family is incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support that has come in the wake of the collision, including from the school community and the Police Department.

However, she added sadly, "I know all the support and money in the world doesn't amount to your child."

Hours after the collision, Citrus Heights police arrested Tresa Bales-Sterba, 52, on suspicion of felony driving under the influence with injury and misdemeanor driving with a suspended or revoked license.

She was released from the Sacramento County Main Jail this weekend after posting $60,000 bail. She is scheduled it appear in court Oct. 15.

The Sacramento County District Attorney's Office has not yet filed a formal criminal complaint against Bales-Sterba, a spokeswoman confirmed.

The allegation that the driver who hit the children was under the influence has been hard for the family to take, Perez said, as has the suspect's release from jail on bail.

"My sister-in-law is very mad," Perez said. "She's hurt."

Perez described her nephews as happy, outgoing boys who love to smile and are always laughing. She said they are "charmed by their teachers" and by their fellow students.

"They love school, they have a lot of friends," she said. "They're normal, average boys."

Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038. Follow her on Twitter @Kim_Minugh.

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