4 members of Gwinnett family killed in N.C.

A trip home from a religious convention turned tragic for a Gwinnett County family when its SUV hydroplaned and overturned on a wet North Carolina road Thursday afternoon.

Four family members, including two young children, died and a third child remained hospitalized Thursday night after their Jeep Grand Cherokee struck standing water, the North Carolina Highway Patrol said. After it overturned, the vehicle landed in a water-filled ditch to the right of the roadway, the highway patrol said.

Daniel Alvarez, 27, his wife Natalie Owens, 26, and 1-year-old Ariela Alvarez died at the scene, said Patty McQuillan, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

State troopers initially believed all five family members had died because neither twin had a pulse when emergency responders arrived at the scene, troopers said.

Three-year-old Zacharia Alvarez died after being transported to a local hospital, McQuillan said. His twin brother, Ezekiel, was transported to Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville, N.C., she said. His condition was not released.

The accident happened in a remote area approximately three miles east of Creswell as the family drove westbound on U.S. 64, McQuillan said. Creswell is approximately 145 miles east of Raleigh.

The trip to North Carolina was one the family made yearly, Pulia Palacios, cousin of Daniel Alvarez, told the AJC. The young family was headed back to Georgia following a week at a Jewish convention, Palacios said. Alvarez's brother and his family were traveling in a vehicle in front of the SUV and saw the SUV leave the roadway, she said.

Alvarez worked two jobs and his wife also worked to support their family, Palacios said. But still, Alvarez and Owens were humorous and kept others laughing, Palacios said.

"They were really friendly and very funny," Palacios said.