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El Paso family loses one of its own in monster truck show accident

By Darren Hunt, DHuntabc7@yahoo.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 09:28:38 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 16 2014 04:54:10 PM CST

El Paso family lose child in Chihuahua monster truck tragedy

EL PASO, Texas -

An El Paso family is devastated by the loss of one of their own in the Chihuahua monster truck tragedy.

And now they want to make sure it never happens again.

UTEP student Stephanie Becerra's 6-year-old cousin was the youngest of eight victims killed. Becerra was tailgating for UTEP's Homecoming game last Saturday when she received a call from her mother telling her there had been a tragedy in the family.

Amid the screams and confusion in Chihuahua last weekend, six-year-old Paulina Santos Luna lay crushed below one of the tires of a monster truck out of control.

"She was the most excited to go to the monster truck show, the number one fan there," Becerra said. "And unfortunately it ended horribly."

Becerra, who attended her cousin's rosary over the weekend, said her family is traumatized by the accident.

"To me you hear about these tragedies in the news, you never know it's going to hit close to home, it just never crosses your mind," she said. "A lot of things went wrong and a lot of people could of stopped it and there wasn't the measures. It could have been prevented and it wasn't."

At the Sun Bowl, monster truck shows are usually a sellout and obviously the stadium setting and a six-foot high wall helps with safety. But ABC-7 asked UTEP officials what else they're doing to make sure a tragedy like happened in Chihuahua never happens in El Paso.

"We go through at least five days of preparation for monster trucks," said Jorge Vasquez, executive director of UTEP Special Events.

He said everything from the dirt to the trucks is inspected and no one is allowed to sit in the Sun Bowl's first 10 rows.

"The 10 rows are held and we call them safety holds," Vasquez said. "It's from row one to row 10, about 30 feet more or less."

In addition, Vasquez said all trucks have a remote control kill switch monitored at all times by a safety team.

"If he sees a vehicle that is out of control or deviated from that path just a little bit, they kill the engine automatically," he said.

Becerra said if that had been the case in Chihuahua last weekend, Paulina, whose picture appeared with her mother in a Mexican newspaper, would still be alive.

"We opened the paper and the first picture was my cousin Paulina, her body and my cousin Irene on top of her," Becerra said. "To me, I can't get that out of my head. My image of Paulina is still this beautiful little girl, smiling, she had the longest eyelashes. I'm traumatized by that picture."

Vasquez said watching the video, he could see the setup for the Chihuahua show had nothing to protect the large crowd. He called that "crazy" when dealing with machines of that size. He added the safety crew at Sun Bowl shows tests the kill switch twice with every truck before the show and while UTEP could sell those first 10 rows of seats, they opt not to for safety reasons.

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