MERIDEN — City police blocked off the section of Crown Street from Grant Street to Harrison Avenue to continue investigating a fiery Friday night crash that killed the 21-year-old driver.
Police have not named the driver and are waiting for the state medical examiner to make an identification based on dental records. Police have also asked for autopsy and toxicology results, which could take six to eight weeks.
Family and friends identified the crash victim as Alex Alvarez, 21, a Maloney High School graduate and father of three small boys.
Alvarez died when the 2000 Lincoln he was driving burst into flames after hitting five parked cars on both sides of Crown Street. Family members said Alvarez had attended a baby shower given for his brother Pedro Alvarez at the Disabled American Veterans club on Hall Avenue with a passenger. They are uncertain what happened next.
Police said Alvarez was driving south on Crown Street toward Hall Avenue to retrieve a cellphone he left at the DAV hall when he hit three parked cars on the east side of the road, continued moving and struck two more cars on the west side of the road before the car caught on fire. According to police and witnesses, Alvarez was trapped in the car and the passenger fled.
Alvarez’ family is asking the passenger to come forward and tell police what happened.
Police had a difficult time searching for evidence at the crime scene at 11:40 p.m. Friday because it was dark, the street was littered with accident debris, and their equipment was getting cold, said Lt. Thomas Cossette, head of the accident investigation and reconstruction unit.
They continued gathering evidence in the area near 196 Crown St. Tuesday, Cossette said.
“There is quite a bit of damage, so we know speed was a factor,” Cossette said.
He said one of the biggest challenges with the investigation is that people are keeping quiet or are giving conflicting reports.
“Nobody is really talking,” Cossette said. “Our main concern is that he (the passenger) is injured.”
Cossette said witnesses reported seeing one or two people escape the car while it was burning. Police dogs tracked one person to the entrance of Crown Village, where he or she likely was picked up.
Family members claimed to know the identity of the passenger but Cossette said police typically give the family a few days to grieve and make arrangements before interviewing them.
A pickup truck was parked in the driveway of Alvarez’ Catherine Avenue home Tuesday afternoon. Two men climbed out and delivered trays of food to family members inside.
Alvarez’ aunt and sister described him as a caring young man with a keen sense of humor and love for his family, particularly his three sons: Jayden Alvarez, 3; Elias Alvarez, 2; and Zoel Perez, 1.
Alvarez had turned 21 on Oct. 20 and had only been home a few weeks after serving a prison sentence for possessing and selling drugs, among other charges.
“He wasn’t a hoodlum,” his sister Deonna Leary said tearfully. “He just wanted people to give him a chance. Nobody would give him a chance. But everyone loved him.”
The family moved from Philadelphia in the late 1980s, and his mother Liecila Canderlaria is a psychiatric nurse at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown, said her sister Demetria Leary.
“He was always smiling and full of energy,” Leary said. “He had his flaws but he was a good kid with family values and always helping out. His joy was his kids.”
Leary said the family is tight-knit and will help raise Alvarez’ sons. She hopes the missing passenger comes forward to tell police what happened to help her sister and other family members find closure.
“Nobody is angry,” Leary said before breaking down. “I just want closure for my sister. You left my nephew to die alone. If you couldn’t pull him out of the car, at least stay there until somebody comes. I see the pain my sister has endured.”