Gilberto Sotelo and Rosio Ibarra were the two youngest of nine siblings.
They were close friends until 2015, when Ibarra and her husband were killed in a car crash in Corona on the 15 Freeway — only their baby, who was ejected from the car, survived.
Sotelo, a father of seven, drove to visit his sister’s grave on Sunday, and was heading back to his wife and kids at their home near Lake Elsinore in the early hours of Monday morning when he ran out of gas on the 215 Freeway near Riverside. A Honda SUV or truck swerved into the shoulder, struck Sotelo and his Chevrolet Silverado and continued driving, according to family and the California Highway Patrol. Sotelo died at the scene.
“Ironically, they both died in crashes on the freeway,” said Sotelo and Ibarra’s oldest brother, Jesus Sotelo. “I told our mom. I don’t think she could have handled the police knocking on her door a second time.”
The family plans to bury his brother in the same plot as his sister at Resurrection Cemetery in Rosemead, Jesus Sotelo said. They are raising money for the family.
The CHP has not made an arrest in the hit-and-run case and is still hoping to identify the driver of the Honda as well as the exact make of the car.
Jesus Sotelo said that his brother, who was a mechanic and manual laborer, had recently gotten work in Iowa and was considering moving his family out of California.
Gilberto Sotelo drove to his sister’s grave in the old Chevrolet Silverado he was fixing up before leaving the state, Jesus Sotelo said. The gas gauge on the Silverado was not properly working, according to his brother, which is why Sotelo ran out of fuel on the side of the freeway around 1:30 a.m.
He called his wife, who was at the scene when her husband was hit. She was in her car nearby and saw the Honda swerve, according to Jesus Sotelo.
Gilberto Sotelo was thrown about 30 feet and his wife found him lifeless, the brother said.
The family believes that Sotelo was pickpocketed by a homeless man who was nearby. His phone and wallet were gone after the crash, according to his brother.
CHP denied the pickpocketing theory but confirmed that some of his belongings may have been taken.
“It appears any items he had in his possession were scattered around the area and [he] was not pickpocketed,” said CHP Officer Javier Navarro. “We do have transients in the area that may have grabbed some of his belongings that units didn’t see after we cleared the scene. We are investigating the use of his credit cards at this time. As of now, we don’t have anyone in custody for the use of his credit cards.”