Mexican authorities say a rented van carrying seven people from Washington state crashed on a winding coastal highway Friday night, killing five members of the Gómez family and 10 people in all.

Share story

Five members of a Tacoma family were among 10 people killed in a fiery crash on a coastal highway in southern Mexico, Mexican authorities and a relative of the family confirmed.

Two other members of the same family were critically injured in the Friday night collision, on a two-lane highway between the coastal resort of Zihuatanejo and the city of Acapulco. They remained hospitalized in Acapulco on Sunday, according to a statement from Guerrero state security spokesman Roberto Alvarez Heredia and the relative, a cousin who is also in Mexico.

The U.S. Consulate in Mexico City confirmed only that “several” U.S. citizens were killed in an accident. Calls Sunday to the embassy for additional details were not returned.

The dead from Washington state were listed in a news release from the Ministry of Civil Protection and posted by a local news station as Gaspar Gómez Gómez, 46; his wife, María De Los Ángel González Gómez, 45; their daughter, Denisse Gómez González, 26; and their grandchildren David Zúñiga Gómez, 6, and Alexa Zúñiga Gómez, 1.

The injured were listed as Geovany Gómez González, 18, who is Gaspar and Maria’s son and Denisse’s brother; and Luis Ángel Zúñiga Gómez, 8, another grandchild.

Denisse Gómez González was the mother of Luis, David and Alexa, the three children in the van, said her best friend, Natasha Islas, of Auburn.

Denisse’s husband and another brother were in Washington when the crash occurred but have since traveled to Mexico to be with family, Islas said.

Also killed in the crash were the driver of the rented Express Van the Gómez family was riding in and an individual identified by Mexican authorities as the van’s co-pilot.

Mexican authorities said the van was involved in a collision with a motorcycle and another vehicle at milepost 85 of the Federal Highway Acapulco-Zihuatanejo near the municipality of Tecpan de Galeana. All the vehicles were engulfed in flames, according to officials.

Two people on the motorcycle were killed and the driver of the other vehicle died, officials said.

The collision occurred 4 or 5 miles from the home of Gaspar Gómez’s mother, whom the family had traveled to Mexico to visit, said Beatriz Palma-Gómez, a cousin who was also visiting relatives in Mexico at the time of the crash.

Gaspar Gómez, who worked construction, would send money to his mother every month, Palma-Gomez said.

The Gómez family had lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years, Palma-Gómez said, first in Los Angeles and then in Washington.

Denisse Gómez González had recently obtained a visa allowing her to travel home, so this trip was her first to Mexico in more than two decades, Islas said. Her longtime friend “was so excited.”

She and Denisse met as teenagers in high school in Tacoma, going on double dates with their boyfriends, now their husbands. Denisse could be shy at first but was always friendly and welcoming. Her children were her world, Islas said.

“She was like the best person you could meet,” Islas said, through tears. “If you met her, you’d feel like you had known her for years.”

The entire Gómez family was incredibly caring, Islas said. Once, when Islas ran away from home, the Gómez family took her in like she was their own. Gaspar Gómez worked in construction, Islas said, and his wife worked in the cleaning business.

“Her parents were like family to me,” Islas said. The entire family lived in the same apartment complex in Tacoma, she said.

A couple of nights before the crash, Denisse posted a photo on social media of four generations of women in the family: herself, her young daughter, Alexa, her mother and her grandmother, Islas said.

Now, three of the people in that photo are gone. Denisse’s grandmother is in the house, Palma-Gómez said, and can’t stop crying.