when his car continued past a stop sign and rolled over near Rogers Road and Highway 33.
Michael Tomas Robles was the only victim of the single-vehicle crash, which California Highway Patrol officers said might have been caused by alcohol use.
Friends throughout the community mourned Robles’ death this week, recalling his friendly manner as an employee at Patterson’s Ace Hardware and his volunteer work with the Patterson Apricot Fiesta.
Robles was driving a red 1995 Toyota Celica coupe east on Rogers Road at Highway 33 when the vehicle ran past a stop sign and hit railroad tracks on the east end of the intersection, causing it to roll over several times, according to officer
B. Mitchell of the CHP. The vehicle ultimately landed on its roof in a dirt area that appeared to be more than 100 feet northeast of the intersection.
A news release issued Saturday morning indicated that alcohol might have played a role in the accident. CHP officer Eric Parsons said this week that he did not know why investigating officers thought alcohol might have contributed
to the crash. He explained that officers sometimes reach that conclusion after smelling alcohol on someone’s breath or finding other evidence, such as an open container of alcohol, in the wreckage.
Toxicology results, which could take 45 days to process, are pending, according to CHP officer J.B. Peregoy.
No one appears to have witnessed the accident, which was reported to 911 dispatchers when someone saw the overturned car shortly before 12:25 a.m.
Saturday. However, CHP officers believe the crash took place at about 11:30 p.m. Friday, based on statements from people who spent time with Robles that evening, Mitchell said.
Rogers Road is disjointed at Highway 33, jogging more than 100 feet to the south before continuing east of the highway. Mitchell said at the scene that he was not certain why Robles’ car continued eastbound past the stop sign on Rogers Road and past the tracks after the road ended.
Robles was wearing a seat belt, Mitchell said.
Robles was on his way to visit his girlfriend in Grayson, according to his father and stepmother, Fred and Mary Robles.
Mary Robles guessed that her stepson was probably speeding, but she also said a telephone pole west of the stop sign on Rogers Road and Highway 33 blocks part of the view.
Regardless of the cause of the accident, family members said they were comforted by the community response to Robles’ death.
“I think we were just all amazed at how many lives he touched,” Fred Robles said.
Michael Robles had spent most of his life in Patterson, graduated from the local independent study program and received certification in air conditioning from Job Corps in San Jose a couple of years ago, Fred Robles said.
While Mary Robles called him a “gentle giant,” her husband described the young man as the most loyal man he had known.
A joint statement from several of Michael Robles’ fellow workers
at Patterson’s Ace Hardware on Monday indicated that Robles was a “happy person” who constantly sought to get a laugh out of others, even when his humor could be harsh.
“Mike was a big man with a bigger heart,” they said. “He was always there to lend a helping
hand. Here at Ace Hardware, he was the Helpful Hardware Man. Over time, he formed many friendships with our customers.”
Marilyn Hoobler, the secretary of the annual Apricot Fiesta, had good things to say about Robles’ work with longtime fiesta volunteer Don Catalano during the past few years, particularly his help with electrical work.
“He was kind of shy, but always polite to be around,” she recalled.
Catalano, a longtime friend and mentor of Robles, said the 22-year-old was dependable and had come out of his shell a bit in recent years. He said Robles used to help Catalano with his business, Progressive Electric, and also helped with the soundboard at New Hope Church of the Nazarene.
“Mike’s biggest plus was he was so consistent,” Catalano said. “If he said he would be there at a certain time, he’d be there. He was just always where you needed him to be.”
Catalano also fondly recalled his young friend’s “unique laugh.”
“My term of endearment for Mike is ‘goofball,’” he said.
Catalano added that he saw Robles at Ace Hardware the evening before his death. He said he gave him a hug goodbye before leaving the store, not knowing it was the last time he would see him.
Despite Robles’ death, Catalano said he was comforted by the thought of seeing Robles in heaven one day.
Ace Hardware, 501 S. Second St., has been collecting donations to help pay for funeral expenses.
For information: 892-9221. • Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187, ext. 26, or firstname.lastname@example.org.