BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Franklin Elias followed in a separate vehicle early Christmas Day 2018 as his family returned home from visiting relatives.

His wife drove an SUV west on Niles Street and had a green light when she entered the intersection with Sterling Road, Elias said. Suddenly the SUV was gone.

Franklin Elias testified on Tuesday about witnessing the Dec. 25, 2018, crash that injured several family members.

“It was so fast,” Elias said. “I had them in front of me, then less than a second they disappeared.”

The SUV was hit at high speed by a car driven by Mark Gallegos. He’s on trial for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol and running from his crashed Saturn, leaving several members of Elias’ family severely injured.

Among them was Franklin Elias’ daughter, Emmy, then 12, who suffered permanent brain injuries and paralysis.

Franklin Elias, testifying Tuesday on the first day of Gallegos’ trial, described pulling his wife and father from the wreckage then searching frantically for Emmy and his 11-year-old niece Ariany Ramirez, neither of whom was in the SUV.

In response to questioning from prosecutor Tara Deal, Franklin Elias, with the help of a Spanish language interpreter, testified he heard a voice yelling they found someone. He rushed to the shouting and saw his daughter on the ground.

“Emmy, her head was destroyed,” he said, becoming teary-eyed as he reached for a tissue. “I put my jacket on top of her and told her to ‘breathe, breathe,'” He said there was a “big hole” in her head.

Ariany was also found nearby.

“My niece, her face was full of blood,” Franklin Elias testified.

Emmy Elias suffered permanent injuries in the crash.

When California Highway Patrol officers arrived, no one was in or near the Saturn, according to reports. An officer looked up the vehicle’s registration and saw Gallegos listed as owner.

The officer went to Kern Medical to interview occupants of the SUV and, while there, medical staff told him a young man had arrived with injuries consistent with being in a traffic collision, according to court documents.

The young man, Gallegos, admitted driving the Saturn and told the officer he drank five beers about 90 minutes before the crash, reports say. The officer noticed a strong odor of alcohol.

Mark Gallegos listens during opening statements at his trial on DUI and hit-and-run charges.

Gallegos submitted to testing that returned blood-alcohol content readings of .105 and .103%, above the legal limit of .080%, the reports say.

Deal, during her opening statement Tuesday morning, displayed photos of Emmy and Ariany while hospitalized. Both suffered permanent injuries.

Gallegos’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Clinton Pierce, cautioned jurors against letting their emotions take over. He said their job is to examine the evidence and reach a conclusion based on that alone.

During his opening statement, Pierce told the jury he had earlier stressed paying attention solely to the evidence because he expected Deal to show “shocking images that rile up emotions.”

Later, Pierce objected when Emmy was wheeled into the courtroom by Franklin Elias as his wife, Sandra Reyes, testified to their daughter’s injuries. Judge John Oglesby overruled him and allowed the now 17-year-old to remain in the courtroom several minutes.

Reyes testified her daughter had been an “organized, very loving, very responsible” girl before the crash. Now she can’t perform even the simplest tasks.

Emmy can’t speak, walk or move on her own, Reyes said. She can’t feed herself. She can’t communicate at all.

Her husband said his daughter’s voice is what he misses most.

“She was a normal little girl,” Franklin Elias said. “And now she cannot speak to me.”