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Tariq Khanzada, 51, of Fremont died in a car accident in Sunnyvale when he got out of his car to help.

Tariq Khanzada had just left the hospital after cuddling for hours with his newborn granddaughter, Minnah, when he saw the BMW crash in front of him and come to a stop on the right shoulder of Highway 237.

It was about 2 a.m. Wednesday, with hardly a soul around on the dark Sunnyvale freeway. A stranger was in distress, and anybody who knew anything about Khanzada isn't surprised about what he did next: He climbed out of his Mercedes and walked across the highway, according to the California Highway Patrol.

He was on his way to help, his family members believe.

In the seconds that followed, two other cars traveling in the fast lane happened upon the darkened accident, crashing into the disabled BMW in a chain reaction wreck that killed Khanzada, a 51-year-old computer engineer and an active Muslim community member who was known for always pitching in to help.

That's how they remembered him at a funeral Thursday at the Islamic Society of East Bay mosque in Fremont and at his burial in the Five Pillars Farm Cemetery in Livermore.

"He died doing a good thing," said his eldest son, Hasan Khanzada, who hours after his father's death brought his daughter home from Kaiser Santa Clara Medical Center for the first time. The baby was born three weeks premature; in Arabic, her name means "blessing."


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After the crash, officers arrested Alex Turcios, 46, of Concord, on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The CHP said he was driving about 65 mph on the northbound Lawrence Expressway on-ramp to eastbound Highway 237 and hit a concrete wall on the right side of the ramp.

The BMW continued to travel across the eastbound lanes of 237 and crashed, partly in the median and the far left lane.

Turcios has bailed out of custody and is scheduled to return to court on Feb. 28. The District Attorney's Office has not yet filed charges, as CHP Officer Brandie Dressel said that it may take weeks to give prosecutors the case.

The two other drivers were both injured and treated at Regional Medical Center of San Jose. They were identified as Jason Green, 32, of Santa Clara, an editor for Bay Area News Group, and Maria Glassbarnes, 47, of Hayward.

After a recent string of accidents in which one accident -- followed by another -- has ended tragically on South Bay roadways, the Mercury News published a story last week in which the CHP offered advice on the safest thing for motorists or passers-by to do: stay in your car, keep your seat belt on, drive to the shoulder, call 911 and wait for police.

But staying put was not in Khanzada's character, friends say. On a recent camping trip to Lake Don Pedro near Yosemite, he jumped into the water with his clothes on to help out some kids who looked like they were having problems with a jet ski.

"He was the type of guy to come to your aid," said longtime friend Razi Mohiuddin, president of a software tools startup, Iron Speed, in San Jose. "If you said, 'Tariq, I need your help,' he'd be there in no time."

Khanzada was active in many Muslim organizations, including the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Human Development Foundation, the Stanford Islamic School, the Islamic Society of the East Bay and the Muslim Community Association. At the Islamic Circle of North America, he kick-started a Bay Area-wide "Mercy on Wheels" program, which delivered food to homeless people. The society said it was poised to name him executive director.

"There isn't a Muslim organization in the Bay Area that Tariq wasn't part of," said Tahir Anwar, the imam at the South Bay Islamic Association and a teacher at Granada Islamic School in Santa Clara, where students held a service for Khanzada on Thursday morning. "If you talked to any of the groups, they'd say, 'Yeah, he was part of us.' "

According to friends, Khanzada recently had been laid off as the director of product operations at Data Domain, which was acquired by EMC in 2009. He spent much of the past year dealing with family tragedies: He helped bury both his brother-in-law and mother-in-law, and he recently came back from Pakistan, where he was caring for an 80-year-uncle.

When Minnah was born prematurely, Khanzada spent every night at Kaiser Santa Clara, along with extended family visiting from Pakistan.

Hasan Khanzada said his dad was in great spirits the night before he died. Tariq Khanzada spent a lot of time holding and playing with his new granddaughter.

"He was genuinely happy," Hasan Khanzada said. "I haven't seem him that happy in a long time."

Khanzada is survived by his eldest son, Hasan, his daughter, Hira, and his youngest son, Amil. He is also survived by his wife, Ruby Khanzada.

Knowing that his father died trying to help someone is "definitely something that would give us comfort," Hasan Khanzada said.

"The word 'martyr' is often misused," Mohiuddin said. "How Tariq died is a different, but more effective, use of the term. He died for a great cause: helping others."

Contact Lisa Fernandez at lfernandez@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5002. Contact Mark Gomez at mgomez@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5869.

Authorities are asking anyone who witnessed the collision or can provide further information to call officer Jared Lambert at the San Jose CHP office at 408-467-5400, ext. 327, or via the CHP Communications Center at 707-551-4100.