BRADENTON, Fla. — The Bradenton-Sarasota community is mourning the loss of two parents who were killed in a tragic crash on I-75 Tuesday morning when their food truck flipped several times and caught fire.
With a solemn song, fingers tracing each rosary bead, and candles to light the way, community members gathered Friday evening to pray a novena for Carlos Mendoza, 47, and Alondra Lopez, 31, and the two children they leave behind-- ages 4 and 6.
“It's called the Novenario, and it's a tradition where you're praying… you light the candles because it guides their souls to heaven and on the ninth day, the tradition is you raise across and you celebrate their life,” explained a family friends Cesar Garcia.
Mendoza and Lopez were delivering lunches Tuesday morning, driving on I-75 near Fruitville Road, according to Florida Highway Patrol, when their tire blew, causing the truck to flip several times and catch fire. Community members tried to help rescue the couple, but they were trapped inside and pronounced dead on scene.
“As a parent, I never think of my kids burying me but the other way around, you know, and they're so young and they have such a bright future ahead,” Garcia said with tears in his eyes.
But the loss also hits the Gulf Coast food truck community.
“We take that deeply, especially when it's a loss in our community, because we are a community, the food trucks. I mean, there's not a food truck out there that doesn't know each other,” said Miguel Ulloa, owner of El Indio Tacos y Snacks food truck.
Mendoza and Lopez bought their truck from Camachos and were just starting their delivery business.
“They delivered lunches to like construction sites or local people. And they were very much a community based business. Their business was for people that work here, that live here,” Garcia said.
Ulloa said as soon as the crash happened, he started receiving calls and texts asking if he was okay. When he realized it was the new food truck couple in town, he didn’t hesitate to step up.
“Right away we started calling people, calling places to see if we can host a rally, do things, you know, and just just to kind of help out, do something for them, more than anything, do something for the kids, because that’s who’s left behind,” Ulloa said.
This weekend the food truck community will rally across the Gulf Coast to raise money for the family. Mendoza's sister is now taking care of the children, along with her own two children, and will now need a bigger home.
“There's no words. There's nothing anybody can say to help them feel better, but to be there, to be present, and to give what you can,” Garcia exclaimed.
Saturday, August 20, there will be at least four food trucks at Scavenger's in Palmetto from 12 to 4 p.m. The family will be there from 2-3 p.m.
Sunday, August 21, Smokin Momma Lora’s BBQ Mobile will host a food truck rally with at least 10 vendors at Big Top Brewing Company in Sarasota from noon to 6 p.m. The family will be there from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Garcia said there are also various stores around Bradenton will jars to collect money for the family, in addition to a GoFundMe set up by a cousin you can donate through here.