Calif. Man Arrested After Allegedly Crashing into Church Van, Killing 3 Coming from Bible Study

Lucero Lopez, 10, and her stepfather, Alberto Vicente Lopez, were among those killed, while her mother and brother were hospitalized for their injuries, police confirm to PEOPLE

Alleged DUI Driver Crashes Into Church Van, Leaves 3 Dead Including 10-Year-Old Girl Coming From Bible Study
Photo: ktla 5

A California man was arrested Wednesday after allegedly crashing into a church van in Placentia — killing three people, including a 10-year-old girl, and hospitalizing others on their way home from Bible study — according to a press release from the Placentia Police Department.

Officers responded to a multi-vehicle accident at Orangethorpe Ave. and Melrose St.; upon arrival, they discovered several people had been ejected from a white van, according to the press release.

The press release states that several other vehicles were involved, with injuries of drivers and passengers ranging from minor to critical. Police Sergeant Joe Connell from the Placentia Police Department confirms to PEOPLE that at least five vehicles total were involved, with the fifth car damaged by debris from the accident.

Placentia Fire Department Battalion Chief Michael Finnerty said most of the victims were in the van, per KTLA.

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The release from Placentia PD states that an adult male and female were pronounced dead at the scene, which Sergeant Connell confirms. He identified the victims as Alberto Vicente Lopez, 36, and Gregoria Ramirez, 65.

According to the release, three adults and two children were hospitalized. Sergeant Connell says 10 people total were injured, and eight were transported to area hospitals for various injuries.

One of the children was a 10-year-old girl, who was pronounced dead upon arriving to the Children's Health of Orange County, Sergeant Connell confirms. He identified the girl as Lucero Lopez, the stepdaughter of Alberto.

The other child hospitalized was Lucero's younger brother.

Lucero's mother — who is seven months pregnant with a baby girl, according to NBC Los Angeles — was taken to the hospital, Sergeant Connell tells PEOPLE. She is expected to survive, per KTLA.

The passengers in the van — which was reportedly driven by their church pastor — were on their way home from a Bible study at the Vida Nueva Church, NBC Los Angeles reported.

Sergeant Connell says the suspect is Mario Armando Paz Jr., who witnesses reported running a red light before hitting the van. However, Sergeant Connell tells PEOPLE that the cause of the collision is still under investigation.

Paz Jr. was arrested at the scene and booked on suspicion of a felony DUI and gross vehicular manslaughter, Sergeant Connell tells PEOPLE.

Paz Jr. is set to appear in court Friday. It is unclear if he has retained an attorney to comment on his behalf.

Anyone with information should call Placentia Police Traffic Division at 714-993-8157 or submit anonymous tips to Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS or on their website at

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