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Five Tacoma family members die in crash during Christmas trip to Mexico

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. – A local family is devastated by heartbreak after a holiday vacation turned tragic.

Five Pierce County family members died after their rental van crashed in central Mexico just after Christmas.

Natasha Islas from Auburn says she’s lost more than her long-time friend, Denisse Gonzalez, but also several more members of the Gonzalez family who called Tacoma their home.

“She’s like a sister to me,” said Islas. “My daughter’s been crying, she knows that her friend is hurt and my friend is gone.”

The Seattle Times reports Mexican authorities identified Gonzalez and four of her family members, including her own kids, died after their rental van crashed with a motorcycle and another car near her family’s home near Acapulco.

Several more people died in the crash. Islas says even more of Gonzalez’s relatives were seriously injured.

“It just makes me hug my loved one closer because you can step out your front door and not see it coming,” said Islas.

Islas says she and Denisse were so close some their children were born around the same time.

Islas says she is putting together an online fundraising campaign to help the Gonzalez family pay for medical expenses and funeral arrangements.

“That’s the last thing I want them to worry about,” she said.

But the most difficult, says Islas, is being so far from her friend’s family when they need as much help and hope as they can get.

“It’s unreal, I can’t believe it,” she said.