A family fleeing a turbulent past in Afghanistan has been stricken by tragedy here in the U.S.
One 33-year-old man is now dead, and his eight-year-old son hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after a car veered into the bike lane of Edison Avenue in Sacramento, and hit the two while they rode their bikes near their apartment building.
“I put my hand under his head and I saw the blood coming from his arm, broken bones in his chest. That was a very bad situation. I was not able to stop my crying,” said Mohammad Karim, a friend of the family, and one of the first neighbors at the scene of the incident.
Karim says seeing them lying injured in the road provoked memories of a life both men had escaped in Afghanistan, saying he never thought he’d witness a scene like that in the United States.
The Afghani man, only identified by one name, Mustafa, on his refugee documents, was granted a Special Immigration Visa as a result of his work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers according to friends. Likewise, his son was identified only as Omar. Friends say they knew their family name to be Rafi.
Police say 25-year-old Desmen Carrino of Sacramento was behind the wheel of the car, when he veered off the road and into the bike lane.
“He did make a statement about being distracted at the scene of the collision,” said California Highway Patrol Officer Josh Kolstad, who added Mustafa died about an hour after being rushed to the hospital.
The CHP said that Carrino allegedly admitted to looking down at his phone to read a text message while driving.
Friends were still in disbelief that after just 10 days in the U.S., such horrible tragedy could befall this family, who left Afghanistan seeking a better opportunity.
“He had a really good job, a really good salary. Just to save his family life, he escaped from there and he came here,” said Hamed Saqib.
“We’re going to help. That’s our culture. We have to help our Afghans,” said Karim.
Friends of the family say they hope the U.S. government will recognize Mustafa’s work for the Army, and will return the favor and help the family settle in the U.S.
Police say no authority has filed any charges against Carrino, the driver of the car, but say they may file charges later, as they continue their investigation.