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SPECIAL REPORT: Yuma County’s 2023 Year in Review

Samantha Byrd joins us with the Yuma Year in Review based on the top local stories

YUMA COUNTY, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - We’re getting ready to turn the calendar to 2024 but before the new year begins, we’re taking a look back at what happened in 2023.

From the border to crimes, the last 365 days have brought challenges and changes to the Desert Southwest.

2023 began with the removal of former Arizona Governor Ducey's shipping container wall just four months after they were first placed and after Katie Hobbs was elected the new governor of Arizona.

Ducey placed the containers in Yuma's wall gaps using money from the state's border security fund and said the placement of over 100 containers in Yuma cost $6 million.

Those containers are now for sale through the state’s public auction platform, some already sold for thousands of dollars.

Then shortly after, there were reports of shots being fired in the parking lot of Gila Ridge High School sending the school into lockdown.

The Yuma Police Department said they found two teens injured from a fight and not from gunshots.

In February, Yuma native Jaky Raygoza got the opportunity to dance in Rihanna's 2023 Super Bowl halftime show.

“I sang her song in my middle school talent show, and now I got to dance for her. I think it’s crazy. But Yuma has so much unseen talent. Some of the most talented people I know are from Yuma," said Jaky Raygoza, Super Bowl dancer.

Unfortunately in March, a Yuma man went on a carjacking rampage stealing three vehicles and almost a fourth before he was t-boned by a semi and died at the scene.

One victim shared what was going through her head as he demanded she hand over her car keys at gunpoint.

“It was one of those cars with the start button and so he didn’t know how to maneuver it. So he was like tell me how it works or I’ll shoot you," said Alma Sandigo, NAU Yuma Education Professor.

A few months later, a 42-year-old man was charged with stealing more than $44,000 from Plaza Auto Center.

The owner of the dealership said the thief was one of the managers and had worked there for about five years.

He has been out on bail for quite some time now.

In May, a heartbreaking mass shooting shocked the community.

The Yuma Police Department said seven people were shot at a house party just before 11 p.m., killing two young men just 19 and 20 years old.

“A fun night turned into something drastic, a tragedy, so our condolences to the other family that lost their son as well," said Jazmin Garcia, the victim's sister.

19-year-olds Jose Lopez and Abraham Colin are still in custody at the Yuma County Detention Center.

Later that month more tragedy struck, a crash between a motorcycle and a semi-truck pulling a flatbed trailer resulted in a 21-year-old Yuma marine being killed.

Over the summer, the owner of the Hyundai/Kia of Yuma died in a plane crash in Murrieta, California.

Local veterans came together to hold a special memorial.

“We had a beautiful memorial for him at the Hyundai dealership and we all came together as Veterans and we also wanted to honor Abe who was a Marine Veteran,” said David Ibarra from the VFV Post 8242.

August came around and history was made in Somerton with its first high school opening its doors to students for the very first time.

“We’re expecting about 350 students coming in our freshman class and then we will continue to add each class every year so really these first freshmen are the true graduating class. I always tease them a little bit because they’re freshman but they’re really seniors for four years," said Principal Lucky Arvizo, Somerton High School.

In September, one person died after a wrong-way vehicle crash on Interstate 8 near the Foothills.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety said multiple vehicles crashed after someone drove the wrong way on the highway.

And in late September, one of Yuma’s long-time Mexican restaurants closed its doors after 83 years of business.

The beloved Mexican restaurant, La Fonda, first opened in 1940 as a tamale and tortilla factory.

“I have to use what time I have left with my mom, while she can still remember me, to make memories that I can hold onto when she no longer remembers," said Franchesca Ramos, La Fonda owner.

Franchesca sold the restaurant to Mr. Burros, now called La Fonda de Mr. Burros.

October came around and the community was shocked once again as two Border Patrol agents were in critical condition after a three-vehicle crash at the checkpoint on Interstate 8 in Yuma.

A Ford truck entered the checkpoint at a high rate of speed and crashed with the rear of another vehicle which was stationary at the checkpoint.

The pickup continued heading towards the checkpoint where it collided with crash barriers, checkpoint structures with Border Patrol agents, and also the rear of a third vehicle.

Luckily the agents survived the crash.

And finally, we want to thank you, the viewers, for watching this year and we look forward to keeping you informed about what’s going on in Yuma in 2024.

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Samantha Byrd

Samantha Byrd joined the KYMA team in February 2022 and is a reporter and anchor for Fox 9.

You can reach out to her with story ideas at sammy.byrd@kecytv.com

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