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Whistler reeling after fatal crash that claimed three lives, injured one

Nesters Market hosting fundraiser on Dec. 2 to support Paguia Portillo family
Iris Paguia Portillo, left, with her daughter, Natalia, and husband, Josafat Portillo. Iris’ brother, James Paguia, is pictured in the righthand-side photo.

The community of Whistler is reeling after a fatal car accident on Highway 99 claimed the lives of three locals and injured another last weekend.

The victims of the tragic single-vehicle car crash in the early hours of Nov. 26 have been identified as 22-year-old Josafat Portillo, his two-year-old daughter Natalia, and his brother-in-law, James Paguia.

Iris Paguia Portillo, mother to Natalia and wife to Josafat, was also in the vehicle, and is currently in stable condition, according to police. The incident occurred just after midnight Saturday night, near the Daisy Lake Dam, Mounties said in a release. The vehicle veered off the side of the highway and hit a tree, police said. The collision is not believed to be criminal in any way, according to investigators.

According to a GoFundMe launched for the victims, the family members were heading home from a church gathering when the accident occurred.

Josafat, or “Jos” as he was known, was described as a dedicated family man with a heart of gold.

“The nicest kid in the world,” said Jason Stevenson, branch manager for Lordco Auto Parts in Function, where Josafat worked for the better part of two years. “He was always willing to help the customers and make their day better. He was never one to just find the parts and send them on their way. He would talk about their day and how they were doing.”

A tight-knit family, Josafat also worked at Nesters Market alongside his brother-in-law James and his wife Iris. Iris’ mother and another brother also work at the grocery store.

Nesters Market GM Bruce Stewart called the Paguia Portillos “just the loveliest family, that’s the easiest way I can say it. A really kind, gentle and caring family.”

On Saturday, Dec. 2, Nesters will be raising funds for the family, with local rotary members on hand to accept donations, and live music in the afternoon. Stevenson said Lordco will also organize something to support and commemorate the family at a later date.

“Losing James, Jos and Natalie has already had a devastating effect on us here at Nesters and in Whistler, and has changed the landscape forever,” Stewart said. “We send heartfelt love and condolences to the Paguia and Portillo families, and our thanks to the first responders.”

In many ways, the Paguia Portillos exemplify Whistler’s diverse immigrant community. Active members of the church community, Josafat hails from El Salvador, while Iris immigrated to Canada from the Philippines as a child.

In a 2021 article exploring the different cultural holiday traditions celebrated in Whistler, Iris told Pique she was looking forward to exposing her then months-old daughter Natalia to the varied Christmas customs of her multicultural family.

“Half of my life was in Canada, and [my husband] grew up here, so we have the Christmas pyjamas and those Western traditions going on,” she said. “There’s definitely a pressure when we’re trying to figure out how to mix these traditions and make it work properly without overwhelming her.”

At press time, the GoFundMe campaign had raised more than $66,000 of its stated $100,000 goal—more than doubling the original target of $30,000. Donate at

-With files from Braden Dupuis