More than 150 members of the community attended a candlelight vigil Sunday night to support the family of Jaiden Locarnini Barajas, a 13-year-old Churchill County Middle School student who was fatally struck by a GMC truck Friday morning near the intersection of Carson River Road and Rice Road.
The vigil took place at the location where Barajas died. He and his sisters were waiting for the school bus. The NHP and their Major Accident Investigations Team responded to conduct the traffic investigation, and the Churchill County Sheriff’s Office conducted the coroner investigation. The NHP said the teal GMC was heading westbound, but for some unknown reason, the driver veered into the eastbound lane and the shoulder, where the truck hit the student.
Since the NHP is investigating the accident, the Churchill County District Attorney’s office said Monday it will receive the report and review the investigation’s conclusions.
Jaiden’s stepfather and aunt both called the teenager a hero.
“His oldest sister was stepping forward to see if the bus was coming down the street. His younger sister was standing in front of him, and he was sitting down,” said Wayne Quigley. “He was able to kick her out of the way before the truck smashed into him. If it wasn’t for Jaiden, we may have lost all three.”
Jessie Locarnini of Lake Tahoe said her nephew was one of the kindest boys in the entire world.
“He was brave and definitely a hero,” she said. “He is one of the bravest people I know.”
Family, friends and total strangers gathered to honor Jaiden. A number of students stood quietly with their candles, many saying they knew of Jaiden but didn’t know him well. They were there to remember a fallen classmate. Candles placed on the ground surrounded Jaiden’s photo along with a cross. A small sign had the message of “Save our Children Justice for Jaiden.”
Many adults also brought their children to the vigil. One mother thanked the community for coming out to support the Barajas family.
“We hate to see our loved ones go,” she said.
Another mother offered words of encouragement.
“I am a mom. I can’t understand what you’re going through,” she said.
Several other people questioned why the driver wasn’t in jail.
Quigley said Jaiden was enjoying school and excited about his improvement in math and also riding the bus with his sisters.
Locarnini said it’s important to have the community’s support in a situation like this and to ensure justice. She didn’t realize how supportive Fallon is.
“I felt thoroughly good for my sister and her kids to be here,” she said after the vigil.
The Churchill County School District said Jaiden attended the PM session. CCSD also said no school district vehicle was involved.
Superintendent Summer Stephens said counseling was available at the middle school and also at the schools his siblings attended. She said Oasis Academy reached out to provide counseling if needed.
“We are profoundly saddened for the family involved in the accident and extend our deepest condolences,” the school district said Friday afternoon.
The NHP said witnesses can call 775-423-7946 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any information on the crash.
A GoFundMe page has been set up in Jaiden’s memory. Go to https://gf.me/u/y2n426.
“We ask that you keep him and our families in your prayers as we try to get through these tough times together as we try to raise funeral expenses for a life that was lost too soon,” said Mike Barajas, a family member who organized the page.