'We all lost the light.' Brother mourns 2 sisters, friend killed in South L.A. Uber crash

Los Angeles, CA - August 31: Three women riding in an Uber vehicle were killed in a high-speed traffic collision last weekend. Today representatives of Streets are for Everyone, a nonprofit traffic-safety advocacy group, place three white tires for a ``Ghost Tire Memorial" on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, near the location where the three were killed in Los Angeles, CA. The memorials, featuring a tire painted white, are placed in honor of victims of traffic violence. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Three women riding in an Uber vehicle were killed in a high-speed traffic collision last weekend. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Jose Izquierdo will always remember the moment he found out he lost his two younger sisters in an Uber crash.

The 31-year-old Riverside resident heard his parents get a call Saturday that "something was wrong," he told The Times. Izquierdo's sisters, Veronica Amezola, 23, and Kimberly Izquierdo, 27, and their childhood friend, Juvelyn Arroyo, 23, had gone out last Friday night to a concert and hadn't come home.

Jose Izquierdo rushed over to his parent's house with his wife and brother, and together they waited for more information. Then they got another call that all three women had been killed in a car collision in South Los Angeles.

"Your everything goes dark," he said. "We all kind of went through the same thing. You're walking in a fog, you feel like a phantom. We all lost the light that we had."

Read more: Suspect in Uber crash that killed 3 in South L.A. was on probation in murder case, LAPD says

The Los Angeles Police Department announced Wednesday that 31-year-old Gregory Black, the suspect accused of killing the three women and injuring two others after colliding with their Uber, faces three charges of gross vehicular manslaughter and was out of jail on probation in connection with a murder case at the time of the crash. Black has been arrested and faces up to 25 years to life in prison for each charge if convicted.

About 5:20 a.m. Saturday, Black was allegedly driving on Vermont Avenue in a white Mercedes-Benz when he ran a red light at Century Boulevard and T-boned a black Honda operating as an Uber and carrying four passengers, according to LAPD Det. Ryan Moreno. Black was traveling “at an extremely high rate of speed" and the force of the crash spun the Honda around five times before it landed against a curb.

Amezola, Izquierdo and Arroyo were sitting in the back of the Uber and were pronounced dead at the scene. The Uber driver and the fourth passenger were hospitalized for their injuries.

Izquierdo graduated from Cal State Dominguez Hills with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She recently graduated from nursing school and was working as a licensed vocational nurse for Ultimate.

“We’ve been getting calls from Ultimate about how much impact she had on her patients and how she really listened to people when times got tough,” he said. “She was the perfect sister and the perfect friend and it’s a testament to that.”

Read more: San Francisco and L.A. failed to reduce pedestrian deaths. One girl's killing shows why

Amezola graduated with a biology and environmental science degree from Cal Poly Humboldt and was working at an Orange County animal shelter. She had a huge love for nature and caring for animals. Amezola chose to go to Humboldt, her brother said, because the campus is located "in the middle of the forest."

The sisters and Arroyo were all born and raised in Santa Ana and were inseparable since grade school, according to Jose Izquierdo. Arroyo would always go out of her way to talk to their parents, he said, and to invite him along if they were going out.

“She’s really sweet,” he said. “She’s very inclusive and very kindhearted. It was kind of beautiful watching them be friends for so long and it’s rare to be little and to grow up with the same friends and go to sleepovers. Then that same friend is talking to you about getting a job and going to college.”

The three women loved to go out to concerts together and see their favorite DJs, Jose Izquierdo said. "At all of our humongous family parties, they were always the stars of the show," he added. "They still are and they always will be.”

Read more: There's a lot more we could be doing to make streets safer. Here are several examples

Growing up in a family with six siblings, Jose Izquierdo said that their parents are devastated by the tragedy but find some comfort whenever they're visited by Amezola and Izquierdo's friends.

“When you bring children into this world, your prize is that you never get to sleep soundly again for the rest of your life,” he said. “You earn fear. That’s part of the reality of it. Their world is darkness right now and they’re broken.”

Jose Izquierdo's family is holding a fundraiser Saturday and Sunday in Santa Ana. Arroyo's parents are also holding a fundraiser in Riverside over the weekend. GoFundMe pages for the sisters and for Arroyo have also been set up.

"It's a little bit of light in the darkness to see people come together and offer a hand and be there for my parents," he added.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.