‘He was just a young kid’: Suspected DUI driver hits, kills man setting off July 4th fireworks in Modesto

Local News

MODESTO, Calif. (KTXL) — A driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after he allegedly hit a man who was setting off Fourth of July fireworks in downtown Modesto. 

Modesto police said around 11 p.m., officers were called to Burney and 16th streets where a man was found with major injuries in the road. 

Witnesses told police the man was lighting fireworks when a vehicle sped by and hit him. 

“The driver barreled down doing, I don’t know, 50-60 miles an hour, hit the kid as he was lighting the firework, and that’s pretty much what happened,” recalled Modesto resident Arturo Talamante. “He was just a young kid, only 20 years old, you know.” 

The family of the victim told FOX40 Monday that 20-year-old Ephraim Joel Estrada died from his injuries at the scene of the crash. 

Although Estrada’s mother was too distraught to talk to FOX40, Estrada’s family says they are very faith-based, and Estrada was a greeter at the Life Connection Church. 

Estrada’s brother says this past weekend, Estrada was helping sell fireworks as a fundraiser for the church. 

After finding Estrada, police said they got a call from the driver who said he thought he may have hit someone while driving north on Burney Street. He told officers he was distracted by some fireworks at the time. 

Modesto officers said they met with the driver, identified as 34-year-old Jesus Lemus, and allegedly discovered he was intoxicated. 

At the time of the hit-and-run, Lemus was also allegedly speeding and had his 12-year-old in the car with him, police said. 

Neighbor Ruth Rocha told FOX40 that speeding has always been an issue in the area. 

“We have already seen I don’t know how many accidents in just this little area,” Rocha said. “People drive by just really fast, they race cars here, they don’t bother to stop.” 

Lemus was arrested and now faces charges of DUI while causing great bodily injury, child abuse, gross vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run. His bail has been set at $1 million. 

Modesto police say they still want to talk to witnesses who saw what happened Sunday night. 

Estrada’s mother says the family will have a vigil Tuesday night where her son was killed. 

A GoFundMe has been set up to help Estrada’s family.

Anyone who may have seen the crash has been asked to contact Officer Raduechel at RaduechelR@modestopd.com.

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