Tears and laughter mixed Friday in Queen Creek as friends gathered to remember Theresa and Manuel Herrera, 17- and 16-year-old siblings who died in a fiery crash while passengers in a stolen pickup truck early Thursday.
Debbie Gomez, parks and recreation director for the town, said that until last year the two were daily visitors to the town’s youth center.
"What I want everyone to know is that every child is a good child and these two had very good hearts and they gave a lot to the community," Gomez said.
But away from summer camps and special community events, Theresa Herrera was living a different life, according to police and court records. At the time of her death, she was awaiting trial on seven felony counts.
Maricopa County sheriff’s officials said Tempe officers received a report Thursday that a vehicle had just been stolen from Willow Creek Apartments, 2030 E. Broadway Road.
Tempe police began following the truck and about 3:45 a.m. it hit a tractor-trailer carrying quarry rock near McKellips Road and Loop 101.
The pickup burst into flames, killing the sister and brother.
Jose Dominguez, 15, who was thrown from the pickup, told authorities he was driving, said Lisa Allen MacPherson, a sheriff ’s office spokeswoman.
Dominguez was in fair condition at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn hospital Friday. He could face manslaughter charges.
Although officials originally said the crash occurred during a chase, MacPherson said Friday the sheriff’s office is trying to determine if there was a pursuit and, if there was, if any criminal violations took place.
Gomez said the Herreras participated in roadside cleanups and special events through the youth center. Theresa Herrera liked to help children with arts and crafts and Manuel helped referee youth sports and worked as a stage crew member during summer camp programs. Theresa Herrera loved her little boy, Isaiah, who will be 2 in April, said her friend Rosemarie Sanchez.
Court records state that on June 30 she stole merchandise from the Robinsons-May at Fiesta Mall in Mesa. Less than a month later, records indicate she ran from a Chandler police officer in a stolen rental car, endangering three passengers. During the chase, she hit a police car.
On Sept. 17, Mesa police arrested Theresa Herrera on suspicion of theft, false reporting to a police officer and possession of marijuana, according to Mesa police records. Herrera and Dominguez were spotted in a Dodge truck that had been reported stolen.
When police attempted to stop the vehicle, the driver sped away, running a red light near Loop 101 and Indian School Road, according to the police report. Police later found them hiding in the bushes near the stolen truck in Scottsdale.
Dominguez was arrested on suspicion of drug, burglary and unlawful flight charges, the report states.