By Julia Deng
ODESSA - 44-year-old Jesus Reyna was a father, husband, brother, son and uncle - and eligible for parole in August - before Wednesday morning's prison bus crash in Penwell claimed his life and nine others.
Reyna's family spoke exclusively with NewsWest 9 about their struggle to come to terms with how they lost him, a "mere seven months" before they thought he might return home.
"Our grandfather left behind a house for him in Odessa," Robert Pando, Reyna's nephew, said. "I was remodeling the house for him. That house was going to be his whenever he got out of jail."
Pando and Reyna's four sons - aged 8, 12, 19 and 24 - had been counting down the days until that might happen.
"He wrote us letters twice a week," Pando told NewsWest 9. "In every letter, he said, 'Tell Robert to take care of my little boys.'"
He had planned on taking Reyna's sons to visit him this weekend at Sanchez Unit in El Paso.
Reyna was on his way there, handcuffed to another inmate aboard a Texas Department of Criminal Justice transport bus, when the vehicle skidded off the side of an Interstate 20 overpass, slid down the embankment and collided with a passing freight train below the highway.
"These [TDCJ] guys from the state of Texas, the government, they couldn't check the weather to see if there were icy roads?" Pando asked.
A federal investigation is currently underway.
A team of eight National Transportation Safety Board investigators were dispatched to Odessa to determine if winter weather, vehicle conditions and human factors played a role in the accident.
A preliminary NTSB report is expected to be released within the next 10 to 15 days, followed by a final report one year to 16 months from now.
"We plan to take legal action [seeking wrongful death damages] before then," Pando said. "But there's no money in the world that could replace my uncle."