Family mourns loss of teenager killed in fiery Queen Creek car crash

Deputies say 18-year-old Caleb Rodriguez was killed in the crash and the driver, 18-year-old Ezana Tessema, was under the influence.
Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 8:40 PM MST
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QUEEN CREEK, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- A family is mourning the loss of their son and brother killed in a fiery car crash in Queen Creek over the weekend. Deputies say the driver was under the influence and has been arrested. Three other teens were also injured in the accident.

In total, five teens were in the car, including the driver, 18-year-old Ezana Tessema. However, 18-year-old Caleb Rodriguez was the only one that didn’t make it.

His mother, Crystal, says there is one thing she can’t wrap her head around. “Why didn’t he call?” she asked.

Caleb’s mother asks that question but knows she will never get an answer. She says Saturday night Caleb told her he was meeting up with some friends. “I said if there is any drinking involved I’ll come pick you up,” Crystal said. “I said promise me you’ll call and he says promise, and that’s the last time I talked to my son.”

Tessema reportedly told police he was driving everyone home after a party. Court documents show he admitted to smoking a joint, but the deputy on scene said Tessema had bloodshot, watery eyes and smelled of alcohol. “Unfortunately, for my son it was his last choice that cost him his life,” Crystal said.

The four other teens all survived, but Caleb got trapped in the flames. “The only identification they had to show me was a pair of shoes, a pair of shoes,” Crystal said.

Caleb just graduated high school. He recently began culinary school with a dream of moving to Hawaii and opening his own restaurant. “Caleb was always passionate about the little things in life; it was so crazy,” his father Paul said.

Now, his family is trying to figure out what life without Caleb looks like. “I’m still trying to believe this is real. I go into his room and I’m doing his laundry,” his mom said.

His family is stressing the importance of this message. “Make the call whether it’s your mom, dad, brother, sister, significant other, just make the call,” said Caleb’s brother, Jaeden.

Tessema has been booked on various charges, including reckless manslaughter, three counts of aggravated assault, and three counts of endangerment. He was placed on a $75,000 bond. If posted, would require pre-trial supervision, alcohol testing and monitoring, drug testing and monitoring and mandatory electronic monitoring with curfews.

The family has created a GoFundMe for Caleb’s funeral expenses. You can find that here.