One of the two people struck and killed by a vehicle during a deliberate hit-and-run on New Year’s Day was a Good Samaritan who stopped to help a woman being assaulted by a man.
It did not surprise people who knew Patrick Balbastro, who worked at the Morenci Mine, to hear that he went to the aid of a woman in need.
Balbastro and the woman he tried to help were killed when they were deliberately run over by a car driven by another man. Balbastro’s girlfriend also was run over and critically injured. She is fighting for her life at a hospital, family members said.
Just before 4 a.m. Wednesday, Balbastro, 32, and his girlfriend were headed to Balbastro’s grandmother’s house when he saw a man assaulting a woman in the 2200 block of East Sunland Vista, near East 36th Street and South Campbell Avenue.
Balbastro called 911 to report the altercation and told the emergency dispatcher he had to help the woman, said Sgt. Chris Widmer, spokesman for the Tucson Police Department.
Multiple calls were made to 911 regarding the assault.
When Balbastro got out of his car, the other man attacked him, Widmer said. At some point during the attack, Balbastro’s girlfriend also got out of the car.
After the assault, the other man got into Balbastro’s car and “aggressively used the vehicle as a weapon to strike all three victims multiple times,” Widmer said.
The man drove away and abandoned the car after hitting a tree near East Sunland Vista and South Campbell Avenue. He may have been injured in the crash, Widmer said.
The woman assaulted, Cindy Burnett, 46, died at the scene.
Balbastro, an electrician who supervised a mine crew, died later at a hospital. Balbastro’s 43-year-old girlfriend is in critical condition, Widmer said. Her name was not released.
Minutes before the double homicide, Burnett and the suspect were dropped off in the area by a taxi. The taxi may have picked up Burnett downtown. She was seen at about 2 a.m. at the Junxion Bar, 63 E. Congress St., Widmer said.
“We don’t know who the suspect is, so if someone knows who she was with or maybe saw her get in the taxi, it may help us identify ... the suspect,” Widmer said. Police have located the cabdriver.
Meanwhile, Balbastro’s family and his girlfriend’s family are praying that people who have information come forward and help police find the man responsible for the crimes.
“Patrick was a stand-up guy,” said his sister, Lorraine Solorzano, 41. “He was a gentleman, and a loving uncle to his nieces and nephews.”
Solorzano and her husband were with Patrick, his girlfriend and friends on New Year’s Eve at a Tejano dance celebration at Casino del Sol.
“My brother was so happy and had wonderful plans for 2014. He was doing very well in his job at the Morenci Mine. He was set to start a new project. He was making good money and planned to buy a house. He wanted to settle down, get married and have children,” Solorzano said.
“He invited all of us to go eat at Denny’s early New Year’s Day, but we decided to go home. He and his girlfriend had finished eating and then were on their way to my grandmother’s house.”
But he never made it to the house. On his way there, he stopped to help Burnett — a stranger. Solorzano said she was not surprised to hear that her brother would stop to help someone.
She said she and her family are praying for Balbastro’s girlfriend, who is “fighting for her life” at the hospital. “Our hearts go out to her and her family.”
The woman’s family remains near her at the hospital, and they are asking the community for prayers to help her survive, said Naomi Rios, the woman’s niece.
“We love her dearly,” said Rios, 32. She described her aunt as a “kind, loving, hardworking” woman who has a contagious laugh. She is divorced, works as a dental assistant and has three children.
“She loves to dance, and she loves rock ‘n’ roll. She is the type of person who helps strangers in need,” said Rios, also adding that her aunt helping out Burnett would not have been unusual.
Hector Duarte, who lives next door to Balbastro’s grandmother, said: “Patrick was a sweet guy. Everyone loved him; he had a loving heart. I am in shock about his death.”
Police ask that anyone with information in the case call 911 or 88-CRIME.