Car accident claims lives of Carson City mother and son

A memorial service is scheduled Thursday for a Carson City fifth-grader and his mother who were killed in an automobile accident last week west of Reno.

Steven Chen, 11, and Xixi Ma, 47, died shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday on Interstate 80 near Nyack, Calif., about 30 miles west of the Nevada state line.

According to Officer Rich Ruiz of the California Highway Patrol, Xixi Ma was driving the family's 1999 Chevy Prism eastbound when she glanced to the right to look at a lake.

"The car drifted into the center divider and she tried to regain control but overcorrected, went out of control and hit the trees," Ruiz said.

Steven was sitting in the back seat behind his mother. The two were pronounced dead at the scene. His father, Beiyi Chen, suffered a minor head wound in the passenger seat and was treated and released from the hospital. Everyone appeared to be wearing seat belts.

"The left side of the car took the majority of the impact, and that's where mom and son were," said Ruiz.

He said Chen told investigators the family was returning home to Carson City from a day of shopping in Sacramento. Last week was Easter break for the Carson City School District.

Steven, born Dec. 4, 1993, in Berkeley, Calif., was a student at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School and attended the Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada for about a year.

"He was a really awesome kid, he was just really sweet," said club receptionist Marci Harrell, shocked by the news. "He'd come in and always say hi and tell you about his Yu-gi-oh (trading) cards. He was a special little light."

Principal Sue Keema agreed with Harrell's description of Steven, a boy she knew was good at math.

"He was a very friendly student, and he liked to tell jokes," she said, "And he was kind - so kind."

Steven was in the same fifth-grade classroom as Brandon Putzer, 11, who died last month.

Keema said grief counselors will talk with the children and staff today.

Xixi Ma, a native of Changsha, China, is survived by her husband; parents, Kai Ma and Zhi Qing Wang of China; sister Yu Hong Ma of China and sister Ji Hong Ma of Sidney, Australia.

The memorial service for mother and son will be Thursday at 4 p.m. at Walton's Chapel of the Valley in Carson City.

n Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.


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