Officials release names of victims killed in Billerica auto auction crash

BILLERICA, MA (WHDH) - Officials have released the names of the victims involved in a deadly crash at a Billerica auto auction on Wednesday.

In a release, the Middlesex District Attorney’s office said Rhode Island residents Brenda Lopez, 48, and Pantaleon Santos, 49, were pronounced dead at the scene. Another victim, Leezandra Aponte, 36 of Lowell, was transported to Lahey Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

“She was 100 percent real 100 percent of the time. She loved people, she was always so worried about us. I just want to make her proud,” said Lopez’s son.

Aponte’s family came to the LynnWay Auto Auction Thursday evening to leave flowers in her memory. Her boyfriend, Jose Lopez, said he had been planning to propose to her.

“She was the best thing that ever happened in my life,” said Lopez. “She made me a better man. I lost my soulmate. Right now, I’m empty without her.”

Officials say that eight others were transported to area hospitals, treated and released. Another person, a 55-year-old man, remains hospitalized with serious injuries.

An auction employee, 78, was behind the wheel of the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee when it lurched forward at a high rate of speed and ran numerous people down at LynnWay Auto Auction around 10 a.m. 7News has learned that the employee’s license has been revoked.

Massachusetts State Police investigators are working to reconstruct the accident, which happened while several hundred people were in the building, according to Ryan. Investigators said the employee mistook the accelerator pedal for the brake pedal.

“The preliminary investigation suggests this is a tragic accident,” said Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan.

Another witness told 7News that he heard tires screeching before the out-of-control car drove into a crowd and crashed clear through a wall.

“I was checking out a car that I wanted to bid on and I heard a bang,” the witness said. “This sound went off like an explosion.” Another witness said he heard a loud bang and thought the building was collapsing.

Ryan said police officers and fire officials were working detail when the crash happened and jumped in to help immediately.

The crash is under investigation. The owner of the auction company said barriers will be put up from now on to protect people attending auto auctions.

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