The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

March 16, 2013

Four Palestine men dead in three-vehicle collision on Highway 79

Palestine Herald-Press

NEW SUMMERFIELD — Four Palestine men were killed in a three-vehicle wreck in Cherokee County Saturday morning after veering out of their lane on U.S. 79 into oncoming traffic.

According to reports from the Texas Department of Public Safety, the wreck took place just before 8 a.m. Saturday near Cherokee County Road 1409 between Jacksonville and New Summerfield, leaving a large portion of U.S. 79 closed for eight hours.

One of the vehicles, a Chevy Impala traveling in the southbound lane on U.S. 79 veered into the northbound lane, sideswiping a Chevy Blazer before hitting an 18-wheeler head on.

The driver of the Impala, Michael Estrada, 23, and all three passengers — identified as Christian Chavez, 24, Saul Mancera, 22, and Jaime Benitez — were pronounced dead at the scene.

All four men had Palestine driver’s licenses.

Officials reported that the four had been returning home from a trip to Shreveport. Some alcohol was found in the vehicle and may have been involved, but troopers report that extreme fatigue was the most likely cause.

The investigation is ongoing, with the bodies of the men having been sent off for an autopsy.

The drivers of the blazer and 18-wheeler were uninjured.

Funeral services for Chavez have been set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Evangelistic Temple, with services for Estrada set at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Palestine — both under the direction of Herrington/Land of Memory Funeral Home.

Funeral services for Mancera and Benitez are pending at McCoy Funeral Home in Palestine.

Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at