St. Johns County mother of 2 killed in crash on child’s birthday

Mary Rojas, 49, was heading home from work when crash occurred

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Mary Rojas’ husband says his wife was on her way home from work when the van she was driving was struck by a pickup truck.

Aquiles Pecchio said the 49-year-old mother was killed in the crash on County Road 210, which deputies said happened at 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 6. They have two children.

“One boy, 13. One little girl, my princess, 9," said Pecchio.

Pecchio said he and his wife were together for 17 years. The family of four fled their home country of Venezuela a little more than two years ago. Since then, St. Johns County has been their home.

Rojas worked two jobs: An overnight shift at McDonald’s, and she taught Spanish in an after-school enrichment program.

She died on her 9-year-old’s birthday.

“She was leaving work and this nightmare started,” Pecchio said.

According to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, Rojas was exiting the parking lot of the McDonald’s at Pilot Travel Center when the crash occurred.

Pecchio recalled the moment he had to tell his teenage son what happened.

“I said, ‘Aquiles, your mom had an accident. And your mommy died.’ Of course, he fell and cried. He asked me a question I can’t answer yet: ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ I don’t know why. I don’t know why. My little one, my baby -- she doesn’t understand what happened,” Pecchio said.

Tracy Hemingway is the principal at Liberty Pines Academy, where the couple’s oldest son attends school.

“I think being back in a routine, being with his friends, having the support from his teachers and counselors, he’s doing well,” Hemingway said. “He has bad days, sad times.”

She’s one of many people who have rallied around Rojas’ family since the crash. She said two people donated the family a used Toyota Camry.

“The vehicle that was involved in the accident was their only vehicle, their sole means of transportation,” Hemingway said.

Charges in the crash are pending the conclusion of the investigation. Aquiles’ place of employment started a GoFundMe account to raise funds for the family. It’s raised thousands of dollars.

“I don’t know how to express, to say thank you for all this,” Pecchio said.

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