On Tuesday night, the Isabel Patterson Child Development Center at California University State of Long Beach held a vigil to mourn the loss of Joseph Awaida, 30, his wife, Raihan Dakhil, 32, and their three-year-old son Omar. The toddler was a student at the CDC since he was an infant.
Omar is described as a boy with a “big spirit” and “huge energy” by his teachers and friends. Angelica Udarbe, his preschool teacher remembers him as a “joyful soul.”
“He was fearless,” Udarbe said. “I think the best way to serve him in his memory is to live big.”
A Toyota Sequoia struck the family while they were trick-or-treating on Halloween night in the Los Cerritos Park neighborhood. The suspect is 20- year-old Carlo Navarro who is believed to have been under the influence of alcohol. The driver was released on bail on November 1st, and re-arrested on Nov 5th for unrelated charges from a prior crime.
All members succumbed to their injuries in the days following the fatal accident, each dying a day apart.
Their unexpected deaths left neighbors of the Long Beach community heartbroken. Members of the campus community remember Raihan and Joseph as “very loving” parents.
Photographs of the toddler decorated with orange marigold flowers were displayed alongside with final messages folded in blue paper pinned against the fence.
“My son is currently on the Blue Side Center at the preschool, where Omar and he started at the infant/toddler center together and they were close,” said Andy Alvarez, a parent of Omar’s classmate.
Alvarez says there were only eight students in the class and they became close friends. Every time he’d pick up his son from the preschool, Omar would always be there with a smile on his face waiting to greet the other parents.
“My son is also 3, and we haven’t told him yet and don’t know how to approach the subject,” Alvarez said. “Thankfully the Isabel Patterson Child Development Center is providing us with support and resources to be able to have this conversation with our child.”
A public vigil is scheduled at Los Cerritos Park in Long Beach at 6 p.m. on Thursday.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with funeral expenses for the family. You can find the gofundme here.
By- Geraldine Goicochea