PHOENIX — After a year filled with loss, Raquel Moreno and her family were hoping for better days.
“I feel like my world fell and shattered into pieces," said Moreno.
The 31-year-old lost her mother, Stella, to COVID-19 in September of 2020. She also lost an aunt and several in-laws to the virus.
"There’s no words for it," she said. "You have to go through it in order to find out and I don’t wish that for anybody.”
On Thursday, while still working through her mother's loss, she learned she lost her older sister.
Maria Elena Moreno, 41, died Thursday, according to relatives who say she was the sole victim in a crash at 35th Avenue and Thomas Road.
"When officers arrived, they located two vehicles that were involved in the collision, a passenger car and a pickup truck," read a statement from Phoenix Police. "Preliminary information indicates the pickup truck was traveling south on 35th Avenue, attempting to make a left-hand turn onto Thomas Road when it collided with the passenger car that was travelling north on 35th Avenue."
Maria Elena was a single mom to four kids: 18-year-old Damien, 12-year-old Xavier, 7-year-old Adali, and 3-year-old Aiden.
“No matter what, I always look back on it and I always think I’m so grateful to have her as my mother," said Damien Rodriguez. "She had a heart of gold.”
Maria Elena was a go-getter, according to her family. The single mom worked hard to provide for her children, and like others in her family, was still working through the pain of losing loved ones.
“They were one-of-a-kind people," added Damien. "It leaves a hole in your heart. For the family, it’s hard knowing that you’ve lost that one in a billion.”
Raquel Moreno is now stepping up to care for her nephews, as she works to understand yet another loss she says could have been avoided.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t make that light," she said. "If that car didn’t pull in front of her, she would still be here. They would still have their mom.“
The Moreno family has put together an online fundraiser to help cover funeral expenses, as well as support Maria Elena's four children moving forward.