Andrew Benavente, 36 years old, along with his children Andrew Jr. “A.J.,” 13, and Madelyn, 5, were fatally injured on Friday when their pickup truck was struck by a vehicle that crossed over double yellow lines, causing a devastating collision and subsequent fire, according to the Andover Township police.
Andrew’s fiancée and the children’s mother, Digna Melendez-Benavente, were at home, eagerly awaiting their arrival for their weekly date night when the unimaginable happened.
“She has been inconsolable,” shares Edwin Melendez, Digna’s brother, when discussing the emotional toll the accident has taken on his sister. “We are doing everything we can to support her and ensure she is not alone during this difficult time.”
Edwin, alongside Andrew’s brother, has taken on the responsibility of organizing the funerals for his niece, nephew, and brother-in-law.
A memorial service is planned for Thursday afternoon at Megaro Memorial Home in New Jersey, followed by a mass on Friday morning at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church.
To assist with the financial burdens, Edwin set up a GoFundMe campaign that has surpassed $89,000 in donations from approximately 1,400 contributors. The overwhelming response has left Edwin deeply grateful, a response he never anticipated.
“The GoFundMe campaign originated from a place of helplessness because, to be honest, I didn’t know what to do,” recalls Edwin. “When I learned about the tragedy, I immediately turned to my sister, but I felt powerless to ease her pain.”
He continues, “She is enduring so much suffering, and I wanted to find a way for others who loved them to do something meaningful as well.”
When asked about how he plans to cope with the aftermath of the funerals, Edwin reveals that he is currently focused on taking each day as it comes and providing unwavering support to his sister and mother.
“My sister… she’s struggling immensely, and I’ve tried to shoulder this burden,” says Edwin, who resides with his family in Springfield, N.J.
“She hasn’t been able to return home; it’s simply too difficult for her,” he adds. “She is staying with my mother, and I believe she will remain there for a considerable time. But my mother, as a grandmother, is also grappling with profound grief.”
The driver of the vehicle that collided with the family’s truck, 22-year-old Bruce Cseh, was pronounced dead at Morristown Hospital shortly after the accident, according to the Andover Township police.
Edwin mentions that his family may receive further details regarding the circumstances leading up to the crash in due course. However, at present, the one undeniable truth is that two families are mourning the loss of their cherished loved ones.
“This is a tragedy that has affected everyone involved,” shares Edwin. “The driver was just a young man, 22 years old. He made a grave mistake by crossing those double lines, resulting in the loss of my 5-year-old niece, 13-year-old nephew, and my sister’s partner, leaving her without her beloved family.”
“But I also acknowledge that another family is grappling with the loss of a son, perhaps a brother, and a husband,” Edwin continues. “There is an abundance of pain to be felt by all.”