Crime & Justice

St. James Church creates fund for Redondo Beach crash victims

Martha Gaza, right, and her son, Samuel, were killed in Redondo Beach in a crash in which a suspected DUI driver plowed through a group of more than a dozen people in a crosswalk on Dec. 17, 2014.
Martha Gaza, right, and her son, Samuel, were killed in Redondo Beach in a crash in which a suspected DUI driver plowed through a group of more than a dozen people in a crosswalk on Dec. 17, 2014.
Gaza Family via NBC4

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It’s still hard for Father Francis Aguilar to think about the horror of last Wednesday night, when a woman allegedly under the influence of prescription drugs plowed through a group of parishioners leaving a Christmas children’s concert at St. James Catholic Church in Redondo Beach.

Four people died, including a six-year-old boy who’d sung in the concert, his mother, and two unrelated grandmothers.

“God never said that if you're faithful, nothing bad will ever happen to you,” Aguilar told KPCC Monday.  That was the homily he delivered to his congregation of about 4,000 families on Sunday.

“But we have the necessary resources to cope: god’s love, God’s courage and God’s hope.”

St. James has established a special fund to help the families of the victims. The fund will help with funeral and medical costs for the victims, including eight people who were injured.

The dead include Samual Gaza, 6, his mother Martha Gaza, 36, Mary Wilson, 81, and Saeko Matsumura, 87. Samual Gaza's father and two sisters were among the injured.

“My homily was ‘where do you find God in the midst of tragedy and pain?” Aguilar said. “But I reminded people our world is also filled with joy and hope and excitement. And it's my conviction God exists in both worlds.”

Parishioners are asking how such a terrible tragedy can visit them as they prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Aguilar said.

“It’s because of free will,” he responded. “It’s hard for us to chose the good unless evil gives us the choice.”

Police have arrested driver Margo Bronstein, 56, in the incident.

She’s pleaded not guilty to five felony counts, including gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Police say she was under the influence of prescription drugs when she drove into the crowd of people in the crosswalk outside the church.

Aguilar said he’s urged people to pray for Bronstein, as well as the victims of the crash.