California Fire Captain Receives Overwhelming Support After HIs 3 Children and Ex-Wife Die in Car Crash

Biakanja children side-by-side in family photo

California Fire Captain Steve Biakanja lost his ex-wife and their three children in a car accident last week and the community raised over $230,000 to meet his financial needs.

A California fire captain lost his three children and ex-wife in a car crash and his fire station is asking the community for support, according to local reports. 

Steve Biakanja, San Jose fire captain, lost his 14-year-old twin daughters, his 12-year-old son, and his ex-wife on Sunday, according to KTVU.

According to the outlet, the children — Leigh, Lucy, and Ben — were returning from Casa de Fruta, where they had spent the day and had dinner with their mother, Lisa, at the time of the collision. 

The California Highway Patrol said the collision occurred when their 2014 Tesla veered into oncoming traffic and hit a tractor-trailer, according to KTVU. 

According to KSBW, Biakanja was driving an older model Tesla that did not have a self-driving mechanism. The reason behind the car’s drift into traffic is unknown, and an investigation is ongoing. 

According to a message from the school district, all three kids were enrolled in Carmel Middle School. 

"It is with deep sadness that we inform you about a recent loss to our school community. Last night, August 14, 2022, Lucy, Leigh and Ben Biakanja, along with their mother, passed away in a car accident," Principal Dan Morgan wrote on Monday.

Tatiana Evanoff, a best friend of the sisters, told KSBW, “It's like I can't even believe it it's happening, and they're gone and I just can't believe it.

“A big part of my life is gone now," she continued. "Who am I going to call when I'm having an issue? They were taken way too soon"

“It just seems you go along, and then it’s like they're really not coming back, they're not going to come back, the house is going to be empty,” Ken McIntire, the children’s step-grandfather, told the outlet.

According to the outlet, staff and students of Carmel Middle School were notified of the tragedy Monday morning. To help the school cope with the loss, grief counselors and other mental health experts were brought in to support. 

“Certainly tragic news, and our hearts go out to the family and our community and what we immediately look to do is look to see how we can support their fellow students, our staff and our community and do what we always do in education, which is pull together,” said Ted Knight, superintendent for the Carmel Unified School District.

To help support their father, Biakanja's fire station started a fundraising effort to help "ease the burden of this tragedy and to honor the memory of his beloved children,” according to the GoFundMe page created by the station.

"In the wake of great tragedy, San Jose Fire Station 16 is asking for your support to raise funds for Captain Steve Biakanja as he navigates a new reality," reads a message on the fundraiser page.

"The funds raised will be used to cover the children's funeral costs, as well as counseling, meals, and various other forms of support."

The station members shared some of the Biakanja children's interests: Lucy was an animal lover and was raising doves and chickens; Leigh was a Sea Cadet, and Ben had a collection of WWII memorabilia. 

"At San Jose Fire, each member of the team is considered family, and in times of need, a family must stand together," the station wrote.

"Captain Biakanja has stood guard for his community for years, living out the department's creed of, 'For the Kids,' in service to his people. In his time of need, we ask for your assistance for his kids," the fundraiser post reads. 

"With your help, we can do our best to ease the burden of this tragedy and to honor the memory of his beloved children."

As of Monday, the page had raised almost $240,000 out of its $250,000 goal, prompting a thank you message from the station on behalf of Biakanja.

According to the GoFundMe, Biakanja is, “humbled by the kindness and generosity during his time of need.” 

Because the captain believes the money raised is enough for his current costs, he has been considering how he could put remaining donations back into the community. 

“San Jose Fire Station 16 would like to extend our warmest gratitude to everyone who has donated on behalf of Captain Steve Biakanja and his wife, Thuan,” they wrote.

“Thank you to all who have shared messages of sympathy, comfort, strength, and hope during this time. The outpouring of love and support for OUR brother is heartwarming and awe-inspiring.”

Related Stories