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Published October 19 2010

Man killed in crash remembered as devoted family man

Family members of a 23-year-old man who died Sunday in a south Fargo crash remembered him Monday as a good-natured father who came to Fargo from Grand Forks to find work to support his wife and three children.

Relatives of Ruben Perales also said they don’t believe reports that he may have been racing when his southbound 2002 Chevy Impala crossed the median on South University Drive and struck a pillar at the Interstate 94 underpass around 1:50 a.m. Sunday.

“Honestly, I don’t think it was racing,” said his sister-in-law, Shanan Perales of Fargo. “I just think he wasn’t in the right state of mind. He was drinking and he’s got a heavy foot.”

His mother, Marisela Perales of Grand Forks, said in a phone interview that she had talked to her son by phone about two hours before his death and he said he was going to see a close friend.

“He was telling me he loves me,” she said, sobbing.

Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes said investigators haven’t confirmed Ruben Perales was racing, but they have “several sources of information” leading them to believe there may have been another vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed on University Drive.

Shanan Perales, who spent 2½ hours at the crash scene with her husband, Chris, said it appeared Ruben Perales “caught air a little bit” as he entered the underpass, hit a curb and lost control of the Impala, which had poor suspension, she said.

She said Ruben Perales had been living with her and Chris Perales since April, when he started working at Sungold Foods, a sunflower processing plant in Horace, N.D.

Ruben Perales’ wife and their 1-year-old daughter and 6-month-old son stayed in Grand Forks, and he would visit them on weekends, Shanan Perales said. Ruben Perales also has an 8-year-old daughter who lives in Detroit Lakes, Minn.

“He’s a nice child, and he was so committed to his family,” his mother said.

Marisela Perales said her family moved to Grand Forks from Dilley, Texas, in 1991. Ruben, her youngest son, attended high school in Grand Forks but didn’t graduate, Shanan Perales said. Ruben Perales enjoyed working on cars, especially stereos and speakers, she said.

His death marked the fifth fatality in four accidents in Fargo within the past three weeks. The last fatal traffic accident in Fargo was nearly two years ago.

During rush hour Monday morning, three people were hurt in a five-vehicle, chain reaction-type crash at the same underpass where Perales died.

Lt. Joel Vettel said it started when a southbound vehicle stopped quickly as the stoplight on the south side of the underpass was turning to red. A man and woman were taken to Sanford Health with non-life-threatening injuries, and another person sustained minor injures.

Ternes said he will meet with his supervisors and administrators this morning to analyze the department’s current strategies for reducing crashes.

“What will be the real challenge, I think, for us is to try and come up with some new ideas that try to address this issue,” he said.

That may include more collaboration with West Fargo and Moorhead and Cass and Clay counties, he said. Officers already working in Fargo’s high schools and junior highs will likely use the recent crashes as examples of the hazards of irresponsible driving behavior, he said.

Education and enforcement will both play roles in the effort, he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528