When Kaitlyn Trinidad visited her great-aunt at the hospital before starting her spring semester, the 80-year-old Teaneck resident didn’t know it would be the last time she’d be able to hug her.
“If I had known this would be my last moment with her, I would never let her go,” Lydia Agas said at the funeral where she laid Kaitlyn to rest, along with the 20-year-old’s father and three sisters.
This was just one of the memories family and friends recalled as hundreds of people gathered to say goodbye to the five members of the Teaneck family who were killed in a crash in Delaware just a month ago while driving home from a vacation.
Audie Trinidad, 61, and his daughters — Kaitlyn, 20, Danna, 17, and 13-year-old twins Allison and Melissa — were killed when their minivan was struck by a truck that had crossed over the median of Route 1 in Delaware on July 6. They were pronounced dead at the scene of a crash.
The last time Agas saw Kaitlyn, she said, “She came close to me, and gave me a hug and kiss. As I returned it, I whispered, ‘I love you, sweetheart, take care and study well.'”
Though the Trinidads were taking care of Agas over the winter, she has now found herself being a source of strength for her surviving family members.
The girls’ mother, Mary Rose Ballocanag, was the only survivor of the crash.
The 53-year-old came to the funeral in a wheelchair, having suffered severe injuries to her legs. Escorted out by family at the end, she covered her face with her hands most of the time, appearing to fight back tears as she and her family made their way down the aisle.
The funeral was held Saturday morning at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Rothman Center, where a makeshift altar was set up over the basketball court, and the five caskets were set out in a row. Township officials and clergy also attended to share words of support and hope with Ballocanag and her family.
Outside, there was complete silence aside from the sound of rain as five hearses lined up outside the student center and news cameras captured the somber scene from a distance.
Men in the family, dressed in the traditional white Barong Tagalog, carried the caskets outside one by one.
“These five souls are so much more than a news story of the tragedy that brings us all together today,” Agas said at the funeral, before discussing her favorite memories in front of a tearful crowd.
Before the crash, Audie Trinidad was living out his American dream. He spent seven years in the U.S. Navy, met the love of his life in New York, and raised four daughters with her while working as a postal officer.
Kaitlyn and Danna loved hip-hop dance, but still made time to learn traditional Filipino dances too. Melissa and Allison were about to start high school and looked forward to playing volleyball.
“The Trinidads are a kind, loving, generous family,” said Basil Hamilton, one of Ballocanag’s best friends and Allison’s godfather. “They were always willing to help you, always willing to feed you, making sure that all are happy.”
“The death of Audie and the girls is a great loss to me and everyone who knew them. But we have to support Mary Rose with prayers and love in the best way we can.”
He recalled memories of the girls’ kindness and positivity. Kaitlyn, the oldest daughter, had once told her parents she wanted to pay her younger sisters’ tuition when she finished college, Hamilton recalled.
“These four angels were very respectful, obedient, smart, pretty, and they were loved by many in the community.”
Reverend Herman Kinzler, the pastor of St. Anastasia’s Church in Teaneck, recalled that Audie was a proud member of the parish and that the Trinidads were always involved in church.
Audie was an usher at the 11:30 Masses every Sunday. All of the girls had played angels in the Christmas pageant at some point in their lives, and, as they grew older, they could often be seen serving food or grilling hamburgers and hot dogs at church events, Kinzler said in his sermon.
“They were just nice, good, young people, who were growing into the type of adults we would all want our kids to be,” he said.
A vigil for the Trinidads was attended by hundreds directly after the crash, and a GoFundMe account to support the family raised more than $292,000. The township’s Filipino-American Society also collected donations for the family.
Teaneck Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin also announced at the funeral that the township plans to create a memorial for the Trinidads.
Delaware State Police said Tuesday there are no charges against the driver, Alvin S. Hubbard Jr., 44, of East New Market, Maryland.
Ballocanag and Dian Lucianna, the family’s lawyer, said last week that they plan to file suit against Hubbard. Lucianna told an NJ Advance Media reporter Tuesday that the family also plans to file a notice of claim against the state of Delaware.
But on Saturday, the focus remained on the Trinidad family’s most happy memories of their loved ones.
“Let us think back and remember, how Audie, Kaitlyn, Danna, Allison and Melissa touched our lives,” Agas said. “Let’s be thankful for the special moments we shared with them. They’re now in a sacred place in the hands of the Lord.”