Port Arthur man who died in Mississippi crash was working to become an American citizen

Published 12:38 am Friday, May 12, 2023

A Port Arthur man died tragically in Panola County, Mississippi, earlier this year when his truck crashed through the side of the concrete bridge that spans the Tallahatchie River on Interstate 55.

He left a much bigger legacy behind than just an untimely death.

Carlos A. Perez, 50, was doing all he could to support family in Mexico, working as a scaffold builder, traveling throughout the United States for various jobs and working for BRAND USA, an industrial scaffolding service in Port Arthur.

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Perez was a card-holding union insulator, which would keep the money flowing when scaffolding work was slow – and also typically would put his vast skillset to use in communities with local refineries.

Time spent in the military also lent to his work ethic.

“Carlos adored his family in Mexico,” said partner and best friend of nearly 10 years, Bobbi Jo Christine, who was devastated by his passing. Christine hails from the small town of Robinson, Illinois, where she and Perez had met while he was there for work.

He had managed to maintain a 12-year marriage during a span when he was able to “make the money he needed for his children’s education,” Bobbi Jo recalled, although the marriage eventually ended.

Perez had three children living in Mexico while he was working in the U.S., though he lost his eldest, Cesar, to leukemia at the age of 18.

Carlos A. Perez had just turned 50 when he died in a traffic crash in February. (Courtesy photo)

Cesar aspired to be a professional soccer player.

“It broke Carlos’ heart. He never recovered from that loss, but he knew he had to for his other two children,” said Christine.

Perez lost his mother to stomach cancer and his father when he was struck by a vehicle in a crosswalk. These tragedies led to nightmares.

“When Carlos was younger, he lost sight in one eye, so he did everything to overcome his handicap,” Christine said.

No stranger to adversity, after obtaining a work visa, Perez improved his English because each job required he be tested.

Christine laughingly credited his quick progress with English to American television and film – particularly the Spiderman franchise.

It was Christine – a teacher’s assistant who taught reading to third-to-fifth graders – who eagerly helped a better line of communication.

“We got to know each other the more he learned,” she said. “He was brilliant. He learned very quickly. He was such a sweet, soft-spoken man.”

Perez was preparing to start his application for becoming a U.S. citizen. His attorney had begun the paperwork, and he had paid to have his daughter come to the States to also become a citizen.

Although he suffered a tragic fate, Perez’ hard work was not in vain, as he was able to put son Jair through college, and he now enjoys a career as an architect.

His daughter America recently graduated from secondary school.

The cause of the Feb. 18 I-55 crash is said to have been due to an aneurysm or heart attack, accroding to Christine, suggesting Perez did not suffer as his truck penetrated the inside barrier of the northbound lanes and plunged into chilly waters, which were moderately high due to recent rainfall.

“Carlos was coming home to me,” she said. “His birthday was that Friday, and mine was the 5th of February. He had just turned 50 years old. I’m still grieving my loss but am more concerned for his family.”


Written by Davis Coen and reprinted with permission of The Panolian of Batesville, Mississippi.