Víctor used to sleep next to his mother. In the mornings, he would take his father’s place in the bed after he had left in the early hours of the morning to work as a security guard in a shopping mall, patrolling the empty corridors during its out-of-business hours. Alone, in the darkness of the room, mother and son would often speak about Roberto, Víctor’s older brother, who died just under a year ago. That loss devastated them, but ultimately they still had each other, in the dark, in a scene that resembled something from the 20-year-old’s childhood.
In the early hours of Sunday, Víctor got up at 6am in his home town of in Rivas Vaciamadrid, located east of the Spanish capital. In an hour he had to be at the Carrefour supermarket in nearby San Fernando de Henares. Two days earlier, he had been hired there as a butcher. It was a job that he could combine with his studies in sports and culture. He showered, had breakfast and got into his car. Before setting off and heading toward the M-50, a beltway with little traffic at that time, he didn’t get the chance to read the last message his mother had sent him on WhatsApp: “Have a good day.”
Víctor never saw the sunrise that day. Shortly after joining the M-50, near the city of Coslada, a purple Golf smashed into the side of his vehicle at full speed, according to early information from the investigation into the accident. Behind the wheel was 24-year-old Kevin Cui Bai. Víctor Lopez died instantly, trapped in the car. Cui Bai, who later tested positive for alcohol, was thrown out of the window of his vehicle, and was found walking on the side of the road, disoriented, when the ambulance arrived.
A few minutes before the crash, Arantxa, a social worker, was driving down the M-50 on her way to a triathlon competition in which her 15-year-old daughter was going to compete. She was going up a hill in the right lane when Cui Bai’s car overtook her “at full speed.” The exhaust pipe sounded like a missile going past. The car accelerated even more, she explains over the phone, and continued switching lanes. Arantxa slowed down, frightened by what she was witnessing. When the driver pulled over at the side of the road, she took her chance to drive past him. Her daughter looked back and couldn’t believe what she was seeing
“He just spun around and is driving in the opposite direction to everyone else!” she exclaimed.
The woman immediately called the other mothers who were heading to the same competition with their children. She warned them that they risked running into a crazy person. “I told them to be very careful, that they were about to cross paths with a lunatic.” A few minutes later, her daughter received a message from a friend telling her that the erratic driver had crashed into another car head-on.
Arantxa was left feeling broken for the rest of the day. In the afternoon, when she arrived home, she called the Civil Guard: “For me, that man is a murderer. I don’t want to hear him now making excuses that he took the wrong exit or did it unintentionally. He knew exactly what he was doing.” If it was her who had been hit, she says, she would like others to do the same and tell the truth.
The souped-up car took the life of a young man who was beginning to leave behind the dark cloud that began to hang over him after the death of his brother, who was five years older than Víctor. The new job, getting back to studying, and the prospect of becoming a firefighter or policeman in the future, had all lifted his spirits. He was also making an effort to support his parents, explains an aunt.
Víctor had been with his girlfriend Laura for five years. When she heard about the accident, she went online to look for the news to try to disprove what they were telling her on the phone – it couldn’t possibly be true. And she found a glimmer of hope. News reports circulating online that morning said that the person who died in the crash was 35 and the survivor was 24. Her boyfriend was closer to the age of the latter. Could it be that the other person had actually died? She called the hospital hoping they’d tell her it was all a misunderstanding. It wasn’t. The news reports had confused their ages.
In the afternoon, Víctor’s aunt and uncle went to a junkyard in search of his belongings. Among the remains of his wrecked car, a Citroën C4, they rescued the strap of his Apple Watch but the device itself was missing, as well as his wallet and rucksack. An employee at the junkyard also brought them a plastic bag with a beach towel inside. They looked at it with confusion, until they realized that they had mistakenly been given the belongings of Cui Bai, the wrong-way driver. The carelessness made them very uneasy.
In the hospital
The family of the survivor of the collision waited for news on Monday in the recovery unit of Madrid’s Gregorio Marañón Hospital, where he was admitted with injuries to his arm. His mother provided this newspaper with the phone number of a lawyer who has taken up his defense. The lawyer has not responded to phone calls.
The funeral home in Coslada was filled with Víctor’s friends by noon. Room number two took a while to open. On the door there was a sign that read Víctor López Casado. “I just want to give that boy two kisses,” said his mother, Gema Casado, surrounded by family members. She wept for her companion during sleepless nights. “Eleven months ago I had two children. Now, because of one thing or another, I don’t have any.”
English version by Alicia Kember.