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Toddler Killed While Visiting His Abuelo’s Tamal Stand in the Valley, Hit and Run Suspect Still At Large

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]t’s been two weeks since the fatal death of an 18-month-old boy from North Hills who was struck and killed after two cars collided on the corner of Nordhoff Street and Langdon Avenue. 

The accident happened in the early morning of October 17, where Ana Morales, the mother of Sebastian Chavez Morales, said their Sunday started like any other day. She changed Sebastian, played with him a little, and then buckled him in his stroller and said bye to him before heading to work.  “I keep going back to when I said bye to him, and I didn’t know that would be the last time I  would see his beautiful smile,” she said.

Morales, who works at a Central American store less than a mile away from where the incident occurred, said she watched her son leave with his abuelo and her neighbor, who often helps Sebastian’s grandparents make tamales to sell on Sundays. His grandparents have been selling tamales on Nordhoff and Langdon for over ten years so going to their stand was nothing new. “Ever since I went back to work after Sebastian was born, my parents and my sisters have always been the ones to help me take care of him,” she said over the phone. “They loved him, and he loved being with them at their stand.”

But at around 7:35 AM, as Morales settled into her shift, the fatal hit and run happened. A silver 2016 Honda HRV that was attempting to make a left turn sideswiped an approaching grey sedan. According to LAPD, the Honda changed its direction due to the impact and drove onto the sidewalk, pinning the 18-month-old who was still in his stroller to a brick planter. Another pedestrian was also struck but was treated and released the same day. The driver of the grey sedan is said to have fled the scene without stopping to offer help. Meanwhile, Morales, who was still at work, noticed she had missed a call from her brother before the phone at the store rang. 

“I saw the ambulance, the stroller crushed, man I couldn’t believe it, I kept saying, ‘No, this isn't happening, and I was praying for the best.”

“I just heard over the speaker, ‘There was an accident in the corner,’ and once I heard that, my heart literally dropped,” she said, holding back tears. “I didn’t want to think the worst, but I knew I had to prepare myself for what I was about to see.” Immediately she grabbed her sister’s keys, but since she was in shock, those around her did not allow her to drive“I just started running after that. I ran all the way to where my baby was, she said. “I saw the ambulance, the stroller crushed, man I couldn’t believe it, I kept saying, ‘No, this isn't happening, and I was praying for the best.”

Unfortunately, when she arrived at the hospital, paramedics told her son had stopped responding. “At 8:21 AM. That is the last time my baby took his last breath,” she said.  Morales wants her son to be remembered as the sweet, strong boy he was. “He was a warrior. He is one of the strongest persons I’ve known; literally an angel,” she said. The mother of the 18-month-old refers to her son as a warrior because Sebastian was a premature baby. He was born at 27 weeks and was in the NICU for 65 days, where she said, “He fought for his life.”

Although Sebastian was only just beginning to start his life, his family described him as a boy who was always smiling and who loved to dance. Morales said she is overwhelmed by her community’s support, from praying with them to having a Danza group come to honor Sebastian through dance. She said she recognizes that her son’s death has impacted not just her family but her community, who often saw the toddler at his grandparent’s stand every week. 

“The support from our community has been crazy and amazing, and to them, I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I appreciate all of you so much,” she said. 

According to LAPD, no arrests have been made since the hit and run, but they ask the public for help. Thanks to a hit-and-run rewards program, they can offer up to $50,000 for anyone who can provide information that can help identify the drivers. The family has also set up a GoFundMe to raise money for funeral expenses. Sebastian is set to be laid to rest on Wednesday, November 17, at 1 PM at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park and Mortuary. 

As for Sebastian’s mother, she said she hopes that other drivers will learn from what happened to her son, saying: 

“It’s sad that things like this have to happen for people to want to drive safely, but I hope they take what happened to my son into consideration the next time they think of running a red light or think of speeding or whatever it may be. Drive safe because you can change your life and the life of others in a second. What happened to my son could’ve been prevented.”

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