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Wrong-Way Crash Victim Remembered as Someone Who Loved to Laugh

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WEST SACRAMENTO -- The family of one of the two people killed in a wrong-way crash on I-80 Tuesday night is speaking out in his memory and calling on drivers to act responsibly.

When Fernando Bravo Maya’s family saw a totaled white Dodge Challenger on the news Tuesday night they began to worry, when he didn’t answer his cell phone they started to panic, and when his brother-in-law went to the crash scene and had to break the news to the family, they began to grieve.

“Devastating and really, really hard to do, it’s something no one in this world should have to go through,” said Jose Gomez, Bravo Maya’s brother-in-law.

Around 10 p.m., investigators said 47-year-old Katherine Malek was going the wrong way on I-80 and hit Bravo Maya head on. Both died at the scene.

Bravo Maya leaves behind a 4-year-old son, a mother and three younger siblings.

Originally from Dixon, but raised in West Sacramento, the 24-year-old was excited about a promotion at his home contracting job, according to Gomez.

Wednesday, neighbors and loved ones gathered at the family’s home remembering a young man who loved baseball, soccer and was quick to laugh.

“When he was around you knew he was around, you could hear him, you could feel him," said Gomez.

Now what they’re feeling is devastation -- disbelief that their loved one was taken from them in an instant.

“For someone to just take his life away for nothing, that’s when it hits harder,” said Gomez.

A series of wrong-way crashes in 2015 led to a Caltrans pilot program to help keep drivers from going the wrong way.

Signs have been added to some off-ramps around Sacramento to alert drivers, sensors, and cameras were added to alert police of wrong way drivers.

Officials admit that might not deter drunk drivers but, say they may still be helpful.

“What the signs may typically do, though, is help those who are not impaired and help them turn around,” said Dennis Keaton with Caltrans.

Investigators say they don’t know why Malek was going the wrong way on the freeway or if she was driving under the influence. CHP spokesperson Chad Hertzel tells FOX40 she did not have a history of DUI in the last 10 years.

The CHP says she may have gotten on around Watt Avenue where there is no enhanced signage.

They say she sideswiped another car near Raley Boulevard before hitting Bravo Maya’s car.

Now as a family grieves the loss of a son, a brother and a father, they say something does need to change – but it’s the up to the driver.

“It’s the responsibility of the driver, Caltrans and the state can only do so much,” said Gomez