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Street Vending

Friends Raise Funds for Guatemalan Street Vendor Killed by DUI Driver in Ontario, Had Only Been in U.S. for One Year

11:48 AM PDT on July 13, 2021

[dropcap size=big]O[/dropcap]ntario's street vendor community gathered over the weekend to raise funds for two fruit vendors who were struck last Monday by a woman suspected of driving under the influence. 

According to Ontario PD, at approximately 11:13 A.M. On July 5, the two vendors, Ariel Tucubal, 20, and his cousin Hector Rabinal, 32, were crossing the street on Riverside Drive when they were hit by a woman identified as 43-year-old Jessica Dewet. The youngest Ariel was pronounced dead at the scene, while Hector, who was in critical condition, was rushed to a local hospital. 

Vendors like Jose Luis Ramirez, who worked alongside the two fruit vendors, said he was getting the cousin’s lunch when he learned about the crash. 

“I remember I was calling them to ask them what they wanted from the restaurant, but they weren’t answering,” Ramirez said. “That’s when I got a call from the workers from across the street who told me something happened; they said the fruit cart was on the street.”

When Ramirez arrived, both vendors had already been taken away, the fruit from Ariel’s cart was all over the street. “I still can’t believe it,” he said.

On Saturday and Sunday, fellow vendors returned to the site to raise funds for the cousin's expenses. But according to Ramirez, the fundraiser was almost shut down. Ontario code enforcement attempted to shut them down around 10 A.M. for selling fruit without a permit.

Ramirez said that the fruit cart with a permit was the one involved in the crash so in such short notice they had to use a different unpermitted cart to be able to keep the fruit fresh for those who donated. 

“No hay respeto (there’s no respect), we weren’t even selling, we were getting donations from people for the funeral and the hospital, the fruit was simply given to people as a thank you for donating,” he said.

After giving the vendors a warning, code enforcement left and did not return for the remainder of the day. However, vendors said since the crash there have been a lot of things that haven’t sat right with them. For example, Ramirez said he had asked the officers if he could take the vendor's truck which was parked across the street back to their house. To which the officer is said to have responded with a no. “They took the truck because they said it was evidence, I don’t know why if the truck was not involved in the crash,” Ramirez said.  

And when the truck was finally returned, Ramirez said it had bloody sand thrown in the trunk, and the fruit they weren’t able to take with them had spoiled. This is why the entire situation has left vendors who are mourning the loss of their friend, feeling a bit uneasy. 

Liliana Martinez stands three feet away from where Ariel Tucubal the 20-year-old fruit vendor from Guatemala passed away. The fruit vendor from Ontario saw Tucubal just a few days before the crash.
Liliana Martinez stands three feet away from where Ariel Tucubal the 20-year-old fruit vendor from Guatemala passed away. The fruit vendor from Ontario saw Tucubal just a few days before the crash. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
A photo of of the memorial.
Memorial of Ariel Tucubal. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Nevertheless, Ramirez said their main focus, for now, is to raise enough money to help their compañeros. Vendors described the Guatemalan cousins as honest, calm, hardworking people who had much life left to live. The oldest, Hector is expected to have a long road to recovery, according to vendors who have seen him, his injuries were so significant he might not be able to walk again. As for 20-year-old Ariel, he had only been in the United States for about a year before being killed last week. 

Fruit vendor Liliana Islas Martinez, who has a son close to Ariel’s age said she couldn’t wrap her head around what happened. 

“Es triste (it’s sad) I just saw him the other day, I can’t even imagine how his mom feels,” she said with tears in her eyes. “As parents, we are prepared for many things but burying your child is not one of them.” 

Last Thursday Martinez visited Hector after she heard he was conscious, she said the first thing he asked for was for his cousin. “¿Donde esta Ariel?” “Where is Ariel?” he said to them. According to Martinez, the vendor remembers everything that happened leading up to the crash, but he was unsure if his cousin had made it. For now, they are waiting for Hector to get stronger before they share the news of his cousin’s passing.

“What happened is unjust because, like many of us who come to this country, he was a young man with so many dreams, and aspirations,” Martinez said. “So for him to have found death here is something that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”

Ramirez’s 15-year-old niece Briana set up a GoFundMe for Ariel’s funeral expenses and a separate one for Hector’s hospital bills. According to Ramirez, the funeral is asking them for a little over $7,000 before Ariel’s body is returned to them in two weeks. They are also trying to return Ariel’s body to his family in Guatemala where he will be laid to rest. Local produce stores, vendors, and farms donated most of the fruit that was given out this weekend. As for the fundraiser itself, the community of Ontario came out on foot and in cars to show their support and give their condolences.

“We know raising money won’t take away the pain the family feels, but it’s the least we could do,” he said.  

Jose Luis Ramirez talks with a customer who stopped by to donate money and give her condolences to the vendors.
Jose Luis Ramirez talks with a customer who stopped by to donate money and give her condolences to the vendors. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Fruit being unloaded.
Fruit being unloaded for vendors. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
A photo of slain food vendor near the memorial.
A photo of Hector Rabinal near the memorial. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

The driver behind the vehicle who injured Hector and killed Ariel has been arrested on charges of felony, driving under the influence, and gross vehicular manslaughter. And in the meantime, friends of the cousins said they would continue to provide their help so long as they can, and raising money is not their only goal.

“We want justice, we hope the señora who did this pays for what she did. It’s something too tragic and it deserves punishment, she didn’t run over animals, they were humans with dreams.” 

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