A 3-year-old boy died on Saturday morning, police said, after he was struck by a suspected drunk driver while walking on a sidewalk with his parents on Halloween night in Long Beach.
And Sunday morning, the boy's mother, Raihan Dakhil, died at the hospital as well.
The boy’s father, identified by coroner’s officials as 30-year-old Joseph Awaida of Long Beach, died shortly after the Bixby Knolls area crash. An SUV struck the family of three as they were walking home near Los Cerritos Park, according to officials.
Before the reported death of mother and wife Raihan Dakhil on Sunday, friends were raising money to help cover funeral and medical costs for the family. They had raised more than $176,000 as of Sunday evening through a GoFundMe.com page.
A public candlelight vigil for the family will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at Los Cerritos Park, 3750 Del Mar Ave.
The driver, 20-year-old Carlo Navarro of Long Beach, was arrested at the scene and booked on suspicion of DUI and vehicular manslaughter. He was released on $100,000 bond, according to jail records.
Even before news of the toddler’s death, members of the community were rocked by the loss of Awaida, who many described as a kind person with a perpetual smile.
“Joey was the oldest of four boys and he was pretty much dedicated to his family,” said Mary Jo Rockenbach, a friend of the Awaida family. “He was an incredible brother and very humble. He always put other people first.”
Unfortunately, the young father and his son’s death is not the first time the Awaida family has dealt with a massive loss.
In 2014, Joseph Awaida’s 13-year-old brother Omar died after suffering from head trauma from a fall in Sequoia National Park.
“It’s a big hole missing from the family,” Joseph Awaida told the Press-Telegram at the time.
Mary Jo Rockenbach’s son went to school with Omar and were close friends.
Joseph Awaida, despite going through his own grief, had helped Mary Jo Rockenbach's son and others at Marshall Middle School grapple with the boy’s death.
He was the “rock who held that family together” during that time, said Steven Rockenbach, Mary Jo’s husband.
“His son, Omar, was named after his uncle who passed away years ago,” he said. “And that’s the part that’s so tragic.”
The Rockenbach family, and others, said that the Awaida family has strong roots in the Long Beach community and has a reputation for helping other people.
“I don’t know how as a community,” Steven Rockenbach said, “we can give back what they’ve given us.”
Joseph Awaida had been working at his family’s business in Bixby Knolls, Joe’s Auto Center, while he was also going back to school.
Back in 2014, as the Awaida family struggled to pay Omar’s unexpected medical and funeral expenses, the community raised funds to help them through the tough time.
Now, with Joseph Awaida’s and his son’s death, community members are rallying again, this time to help pay for their funeral and medical expenses for his wife, Raihan.
By Saturday afternoon, a GoFundMe page for the family had raised about $90,000.
Flowers and candles were gathered near the crash site by Friday evening. Saddened neighbors, some who knew the family and others who didn’t, came by the small memorial to pay their respects.
Poly High School teacher Brett Alexander said he taught Awaida as a senior in his speech and debate class. Even though Awaida graduated in 2007, when Alexander saw the news, he remembered him instantly.
“He was just able to laugh at things and was so charismatic,” Alexander said. “People liked him. He was very genuine.”
Alexander was the yearbook advisor when Awaida won the senior category for “Most Attractive.”
“Even though he won most attractive, he would’ve never said that (about himself),” Alexander said.
NOTE: This story was updated to include the death of the mother, Raihan Dakhil.