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'Her Heart Gave Out on Us': Mom Dies After Crash Kills Husband, Daughter

By Erica Demarest | January 21, 2014 6:46am | Updated on January 21, 2014 6:48am
 Three members of the Pilsen-based Casillas family have died after a car crash in Mexico in early January.
The Casillas Family
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CHICAGO — Two weeks after Heart of Chicago resident Jorge Casillas was killed in a car crash, his wife and oldest daughter have also died.

"It's just been a horrible thing for us," said nephew Arturo Garcia, 43. "In the last two weeks, we've lost three people. We're hoping it stops there."

Casillas, 58, was in Mexico, heading to his native Valle de Guadalupe for a family vacation, when he lost control of his Ford Explorer on Jan. 5. The SUV flipped several times, killing Casillas instantly.

Also in the car were his wife, Hortencia Casillas, who was severely bruised and needed stitches in her knee; daughter Mayra Casillas, who was listed in "critical condition" as she underwent emergency surgeries for lung and liver damage; son-in-law Rolando Santoyo, who suffered damaged nerves in his neck; and 1-year-old grandson Noah Santoyo, who suffered a concussion.

 Jorge Casillas was killed when he lost control of his SUV in Mexico on Jan. 5. His oldest daughter, Mayra Casillas (r.), also died from injuries she suffered in the crash.
Jorge Casillas was killed when he lost control of his SUV in Mexico on Jan. 5. His oldest daughter, Mayra Casillas (r.), also died from injuries she suffered in the crash.
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The Casillas family — most of whom live in the Heart of Chicago neighborhood — flocked to Mexico for Jorge Casillas' funeral and hoped for the best.

But on Thursday, 28-year-old Mayra Casillas died from her injuries.

The new mom, who had recently moved into her first home with her longtime boyfriend and son, was cremated on Saturday, relatives said.

On Sunday morning — as the family wrapped up a novena, or nine-day prayer period, for Jorge Casillas and prepared to start a new one for Mayra Casillas — her mother began to feel nauseous.

Hortencia Casillas, 56, ate breakfast with her family and went to lay down, Garcia said. Within minutes, the mother of four lost consciousness.

By the time a doctor arrived around 11 a.m., she didn't have a pulse.

"It happened very quick. It was without notice," Garcia said. "Her heart gave out on us."

As of Monday night, the family was still awaiting autopsy results from officials in Mexico.

Relatives said Hortencia Casillas had been dehydrated a few days prior to her death. When doctors tended to stitches in her knee, she passed out. She was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, but had never had problems before, family said.

"She looked to be fine, but God had his own plans for her — that was for her to be reunited with her husband and daughter," Garcia said. "Unfortunately, that meant leaving behind three children without a mother and father."

The Casillas' three youngest children — Jorge Jr., 24; Rogelio, 21; and Erika, 17 — lived with their parents in Heart of Chicago.

Erika attends Josephinum Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school in Humboldt Park, while Rogelio is a City Colleges of Chicago student. Jorge Jr., who is out of school, has fainted several times since the deaths, Garcia said. He lost feeling in his hands and needed medical attention.

An online fundraiser that was created to help pay for funeral costs, medical bills and travel expenses was extended this week. As of Monday night, more than $35,000 had been raised.

"Aside from all the expenses [the family] has incurred, now we have three children without a breadwinner in the house," Garcia said.

The family plans to hold a ceremony for Jorge, Hortencia and Mayra Casillas at Saint Paul's Catholic Church, 2127 W. 22nd Place, within the next few weeks, Garcia said. Each will be cremated, and urns containing their ashes will be brought to Chicago.

"Instead of leaving the ashes there [in Mexico], the kids wanted to have their relatives closer, so they can visit them multiples times a year," Garcia said.

"Now, more than ever, we want to keep them together."