Before going to bed Tuesday night, Thelma Torres’ children sat down and wrote letters to their mother, who had died after a crash several hours earlier, telling her how much they loved her.
“I wish I could see you one last time and hug you, kiss you and say ‘I love you’ one more time. ... I miss you mom!” wrote 12-year-old Jeremiah.
Torres, 35, was killed in an accident with an oncoming truck on Delilah Road in Egg Harbor Township. She leaves behind five children, ages 12 to 18.
“I had to get them to let it out,” Torres’ sister Theresa Thomas said of the letters she encouraged the children to write. She stayed with her niece and nephews at their home on North Connecticut Avenue in Atlantic City on Tuesday night.
“Everything was about her kids,” Thomas said of Torres.
Torres’ only daughter, a 12-year old twin, is autistic, Thomas said, and does not fully realize her mother is gone.
“Every year, you would always take us to Wildwood and I would always want to go on every ride with you. I will miss how you would always try to make me laugh by watching you smile at me. I wish that I could turn back time just to see you one more time. I love you, Mommy,” wrote 12-year-old Alexis.
Based on the letter she wrote Tuesday night, Alexis appears to know what happened, but not the impact, Thomas said. “She still goes around smiling and running around.”
The girl’s attitude is a bit of sunshine for Thomas, and seeing her smile is a good thing.
“If my sister were here she would be kicking everyone in the butt and saying, ‘You’re not supposed to be crying,’” Thomas said.
Just before the accident, Torres had gone with a sister-in-law to meet her niece, Lanette Torres, 21, and her niece’s 2-year-old son at Sam’s Club because their car needed a jumpstart, Thomas said. At the same time, Torres had decided to apply for a position at the store.
Torres was formerly a casino cage cashier and had been let go a year ago. She had been especially excited about the Sam’s Club job because it was a store she frequented and could enjoy the employee discount, Thomas said.
“I used to always ask her why she loved that store, and she said it was because she ‘could buy everything in bulk, and I have big kids.’” Thomas said. “Now she won’t get to use her discount.”
Torres was returning home with Lanette Torres and her son to share the good news of being accepted for the job, when the accident occurred.
She was sitting in the passenger’s seat of the car when it experienced a mechanical problem and crossed over into the oncoming lane shortly before 1 p.m., police said. The car then hit a vehicle driven by Fredrick Cincotti, 49, of Egg Harbor Township.
Cincotti’s truck drove over the front of the vehicle, and came to rest on top of the passenger’s side, police said.
Firefighters from various fire companies spent about an hour to remove the trapped woman, said Lt. William McFarland of the Farmington Volunteer Fire Company.
At first the roof of the car was taken off, but finally a tow truck was used to physically lift Cincotti’s truck off Torres in order to remove her from inside the vehicle, he said.
“I got a call that the she was T-boned by the other car,” said Nino Vasquez, 29, of Mullica Township, and a nephew of Torres. He was one of the first family members at the scene.
Robert Pacheco, Torres’ husband, arrived at the scene with several other family members Tuesday. They watched from a distance as the firefighters removed the roof of the 1997 Honda Civic, and attempted to extract Torres.
As time passed on the rainy roadway, Thomas said, she knew that her sister was going to die. But Thomas still had to see her sister at the hospital one last time.
“I had to see her for myself, even in death, and tell her everything was OK,” Thomas said.
Torres was pronounced dead at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City.
Thomas is 13 years older than Torres and said her baby sister had touched the lives of many people and was well-liked in the community.
“She had touched so many people — in all age brackets,” Thomas said. “Her house was the hang-out place. It was a safe place so they wouldn’t have to be on the streets.”
That attitude is evident in her sons’ letters.
“You were always there for me when I needed your advice or someone who just listened. I’m going to miss our personal time with you knowing that you were walking with me in life,” said 16-year-old Juan, or Johnny.
“I know that I was the tough one and would throw you off track, but you always had a loving heart and put me back on the right path. I’m going to miss your hugs and kisses, you were the best mom ever,” said 14-year-old Justin.
Visitors between the ages of 10 to 21 often came to Torres’ home to play games or hang out. And Torres often had fun plans, most recently including a homemade slip-n-slide, Thomas said.
“She had soapy water and put it out on the ground, and not just the kids but even the adults were sliding down the blue tarp,” Thomas recalled.
But the fun-loving Torres was also a responsible individual, Thomas said. Her sister managed all the household finances and kept everything in line, a trait her eldest son appears to have.
“I love you and I’m going to do everything you wanted me to do. I also don’t want you to worry about the kids, I’ll keep looking after them.Your son forever,” wrote 18-year-old Jose “Macho.”
Lanette Torres was still in the hospital Wednesday in serious condition, and undergoing a second surgery, police said. Her 2-year-old son was released to grandparents Tuesday.
Police said the weather Tuesday did not appear to play a major factor in the accident, but the crash was still under investigation.
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