Teen mother dies in Jeep accident after desert brawl
She was an outgoing young mom, finishing her last year of high school online and planning to march with her Fruita Monument High School graduating class in May.
“She had her whole life ahead of her,” her father said Saturday afternoon.
But the desert party turned into a brawl and, in the rush of leaving it, the Jeep in which Lydia Perez, 18, was a passenger flipped. She was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene, shortly after midnight Saturday.
Her 20-year-old cousin, Alexis Perez, was the driver and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, according to the Colorado State Patrol. Another female passenger in the Jeep suffered minor injuries.
Lydia Perez’ father, Jason Perez, said Lydia’s 20-year-old brother, Christopher Perez, also was at the scene, “and she took her last breath in his arms.”
The party was in the desert off 18 6/10 Road north of Fruita and began about 9:30 p.m. as a small group of friends around a bonfire, said a woman who was there but didn’t want to be identified. About 11 p.m. several dozen people showed up, the woman said, and some of them became aggressive.
The woman said several people attacked two of her female friends, so she and the other women got in her boyfriend’s truck and fled.
Before that, she said, one of her male friends was attacked by several other men, beaten to the ground and stabbed twice in the face with his own knife — above his eye and on his lip, the woman said.
The man was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital by his friends, where his injuries were reported to the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office because they were suspicious, Deputy Amanda Erkman said.
Lydia Perez was among those who left the party when it turned into a brawl, the woman said. According to the Colorado State Patrol, Lydia wasn’t wearing a seat belt. The 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee in which she was a passenger flipped one and a half times when Alexis Perez lost control on a curve on the dirt road, the State Patrol reported.
“I don’t even know what to do now,” Jason Perez said. “We just planned (Lydia’s daughter’s) first birthday party Saturday morning.”
Lydia’s daughter, Yanna, will turn 1 next week, Jason Perez said, adding that Yanna was spending this weekend with her father.
Lydia was adamant about finishing her classwork, he said, “just to prove to her baby that she got her high school diploma. She loved being a mom and spending time with Yanna.”
He said Lydia enjoyed going hiking with her brother and younger sister and spending time with friends.
The family moved to Fruita more than 10 years ago from Arizona, Jason Perez said, “because I wanted a better life for my kids. I’m a single dad and I work 12 hours a day and I didn’t want them getting into gang-banging like I did. I wanted them to have it better than I did.
“I don’t know what to do now, I feel really lost. I have to plan a funeral for my daughter. She was so young. Everybody loved her. And she had her daughter. She had their whole life.”