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Loved ones begin to memorialize three victims of Lombardi Avenue crash

Posted at 11:01 PM, Jun 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 00:01:31-04

GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) -- In the two days since the fatal crash, mourners at the Lombardi Avenue memorial for Jesse Saldana, Sonia Gonzalez-Guillen and Sonia Gonzalez say their families were larger than life within the Green Bay community.

"Jesse was a big role model in the Hispanic community, and especially in the Hispanic community for soccer," his distant cousin Angel Rodriguez said.

Jesse Saldana was passionate about playing soccer locally and was revered for his skills by friends. Saldana and Rodriguez traveled to local teams in the area for tryouts together over their twelve years of friendship, and even made the Green Bay United team.

"Soccer was our thing. That was our biggest bond. That's how me and him connected. Whether it was on the pitch or off," Rodriguez said through tears. "I'm sorry, it's just hard now that he's gone."

Rodriguez met Saldana when Saldana transferred from New London to East High School through mutual cousins, and considered each other family from then on.

"If there's anything I want people to know about Jesse, Panama and her mom, it's that they're really caring, loving people, with a bright future ahead of themselves," Rodriguez said.

Friends say Saldana and his girlfriend Sonia Gonzalez-Guillen, who goes by Panama, were inseparable from each other.

"Two peas in a pod, they love doing everything together, they didn't separate for not even a minute," Tayleen Casiano, a close friend of Guillen's said. "They used to go everywhere together, whether its to soccer games, whether its to eat."

"They're unstoppable together," Rodriguez said. "They're like Bonnie and Clyde."

The couple frequently spent time and took trips with Panama's mom, Sonia Gonzalez.

"[Sonia] was always willing to help, whether it was a friend, whether it was family, she did everything out of the kindness of her heart. She was a very independent woman, somebody I always looked up to," Casiano said. "That's who Panama took over [after]."

Rodriguez and Saldana were on the same soccer team again recently, and held their first practice since Saldana's death on Tuesday. Rodriguez emphasized how special it is to have teammates as a support system.

"It was kind of hard without him being there and us knowing that he's not ... coming back," Rodriguez said. "But we're all there for each other and support one another and that's what soccer teams do -- we become a family."

Their Go Fund Me pages organized by Saldana and Gonzalez' siblings can be found below.