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Family on way to wedding among victims in deadly Walworth County crash

The Venegas family is seen in an undated photo provided by a relative.

The Venegas family is seen in an undated photo provided by a relative.

2:30 p.m.

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By Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel

The numerous victims in Saturday's deadly crash in rural Walworth County included a vibrant young family on its way to a relative's wedding.

Carlos Venegas, 26, Maria Flores, 27, and their 2-year-old son, Carlos, were killed when the family's pickup truck was broadsided by a semitrailer truck at Town Hall Road and Highway K in the town of Sharon.

The couple's 6-year-old daughter, Giselle, survived and was in stable condition Monday at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. She is expected to remain there for days, said Rosa Venegas, her aunt.

At least one other person in a third vehicle died, and three others were hospitalized after the crash.

"In 30 years as a firefighter and EMT, it was by far the worst scene I've been to," Sharon Fire and Rescue Chief Bruce VanderVeen said.

Rosa Venegas, 18, said her brother worked two jobs to support his family, his parents and her. She said the family all lived together in Delavan.

She said the couple and their children were on their way to Maria's sister's wedding in Sharon. The bride and groom only knew the family was delayed due to a crash and didn't learn of the severity until after the ceremony.

A funeral Mass was being planned for Friday, said the Rev. Angel Anaya, pastor at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Delavan.

The family has established a page on GoFundMe.com to raise money for expenses. His sister said Venegas worked for several years for Balistreiri Environmental and ran his own landscaping service. Flores worked for U.S. Bank in nearby Elkhorn.

The Walworth County Sheriff's Office initially reported Saturday that an eastbound pickup truck failed to stop at the intersection and was hit by a fully loaded semi going north on Highway K.

The collision sent both vehicles into the path of a southbound GMC Envoy driven by a Rockford, Ill., couple, identified Monday by the sheriff's office as Carol Terry, 67, who was killed, and Mark Terry, 68, who was flown to a Janesville hospital where he remained in critical condition.

The semi driver, Jerry Morris, 52, of Elkhorn, and his passenger, Kevin Grethe, 46, of Sparta, were also hospitalized. The Sheriff's Office's Monday update said their conditions remained the same. VanderVeen said one of the men had been released as of Monday.

The area is generally open and flat, with 55 mph speed limits on both roads. Just a year ago, a motorcyclist was killed at the same intersection by a semi after it entered Highway K without stopping. A neighbor said the stop sign for drivers westbound on Town Hall is often obscured by foliage from an adjacent tree nursery.

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Ray Paez, a bilingual teacher who taught Giselle the last two years, said Monday he and school officials were scrambling to have grief counselors on hand when school is back in session Tuesday.

"It's devastating. I'm still reeling," said Paez. He said the area has very tight-knit Latino community, which he expects will do everything it can to support the Venegas family.

"They are a super-nice, hardworking family, and Giselle is just a dream of a student," he said.

VanderVeen, the Sharon Fire and Rescue chief, said it was also traumatic for the 30 or so emergency responders from more than a dozen agencies.

"We had seven people out there at first, and we saw we had eight victims. We were a bit overwhelmed," he said, thanking the many others who came to help.

Three helicopters were at the scene, along with four paramedic ambulances and two doctors. Mark Terry was flown to Janesville and Giselle to Wauwatosa. The third helicopter wasn't needed.

The intersection was blocked off until about 9 p.m. Saturday, VanderVeen said, as the semitrailer had to be unloaded before it could be removed.

He said there was a debriefing scheduled for Monday night, to work out both emotional and procedural aspects of the response.

"We're a small town. We don't get much for a long time. Then when we do, it's nasty," VanderVeen said. "We'll carry it a long time"

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