Bus crash in Northern California
A tour bus carrying Los Angeles-area high school seniors was involved in a fiery crash on the 5 Freeway near Orland on Thursday night. Ten people are dead, and dozens more are injured. Here's a look at those who died in the crash.
Michael Myvett, 29
Michael Myvett, a 29-year-old Humboldt State University graduate, has been identified as one of the adult chaperons presumed killed in Thursday’s bus crash outside Sacramento.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of this tragic accident,” said Trinice Sampson, a family spokeswoman. “Michael is unaccounted for and presumed dead.”
Myvett was traveling with his fiancee, who was identified by family members as Mattison Haywood. The two were engaged in Paris during the holidays, family members said.
Myvett, a 2007 Humboldt graduate with a degree in psychology, worked with disadvantaged youth at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders in Torrance. Co-workers said he remained active with his alma mater.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and co-worker,” said Kyle Farris, operations manager at the center.
Myvett had a passion for art and wanted to be a cartoonist for Disney, colleagues said.
“He was able to connect with our kids on a level few others could and contributed to their well-being in such a positive and profound way,” Farris said.
Myvett “was an extraordinary individual who positively impacted the lives of families with autism spectrum disorder every day,” Farris added. “He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this most difficult time.”
Photo: Michael Myvett. Credit: Family photo
Mattison Haywood — one of 10 people who perished last week when a FedEx truck collided with a charter bus in Northern California — spent the last few moments of her life with her fiance, Michael Myvett.
A former student of the bus’ destination that day, Humboldt State University, Haywood was described by family members as “a free spirit” who had a passion for art and a witty sense of humor.
“Her mantra was ‘Love is key,’” said her sister, Tremonisha Haywood Watson, who on Tuesday confirmed the family’s belief that Mattison was among the 10 people who were killed in the crash.
Coroner’s officials had yet to officially identify the dead.
“She was just a light…. She gave energy to everyone around her,” Haywood Watson said.
The youngest of three children, Haywood grew up in Walnut, Calif. She met Myvett in college at Humboldt State University, where they both majored in art and quickly became college sweethearts.
Later, Haywood decided she wanted to play college basketball and transfered to Concordia College in Irvine, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, her family said.
She had wanted to pursue a degree in nursing, but later took a job as a bank teller.
Last year, she decided that she wanted to pursue medicine again.
“She always went with her gut feeling,” Haywood Watson said. “It wasn’t like…things were always happy-go-lucky. But she always just believed there was a reason for things.”
She began attending Los Angeles-based Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and was studying for the MCAT, her sister said. She dreamed of one day becoming a doctor.
On Christmas Day last year, Myvett proposed to her outside the Louvre museum in Paris, a meaningful place for the two art lovers.
“I feel like they were soul mates. I don’t use the word a lot. But I could just see they had a very good foundation for a relationship.”
Arthur Arzola, 26
Arthur Arzola, a 26-year-old admissions counselor for Humboldt State University who was traveling with students and their chaperons, has been identified as one of the victims killed in Thursday’s bus crash.
Family members said Arzola has a passion for working with underprivileged students and helping guide them toward college. Though he worked for Humboldt, he continued to live in Southern California and recruit students from the region. The university confirmed his death.
His stepmother said he was a straight-A student in high school and served as a peer counselor at academic camps geared toward helping underprivileged young people.
“He wanted to make it an even playing field. He wanted them to have the same opportunities,” Stephanie Arzola said. “He always just wanted to just help students be passionate about school and have them move on to higher education, make something of themselves, and have a career.”
Arzola was remembered by his family as an outgoing, vivacious man — always smiling and prone to break into dance as soon as he heard music.
Arzola graduated from Cal State San Bernardino and was working toward a master’s degree at the University of La Verne. He was scheduled to graduate in May.
“He was looking forward to it. He had all of our tickets ready,” Arzola said. “His life just got cut too short.”
He had been working for Humboldt State for about eight months, his family said.
Photo: Arthur Arzola. Credit: Humboldt State University
Adrian Castro, 19
A 19-year-old El Monte student who dreamed of someday becoming a sports trainer was among those killed in Thursday crash, the youth’s family confirmed Friday.
“There are no words, no words,” said Alex Soriano, Adrian’s Castro’s uncle.
Soriano said Castro’s mother drove to the Sacramento area late Thursday to confirm her son’s death.
On campus Friday, though, students and parents absorbed the news that Castro might be among the casualties. They said one of the school’s football coaches pulled aside players to talk about Castro, who had been a cornerback for the El Monte High team.
“They’re distraught; they’re all falling apart,” said Monica Lopez, whose two sons played with Castro. “But they’re all sticking together.”
Angel Gonzalez, another classmate, said Castro had wavered on taking the trip to Humboldt because of a party he wanted to attend.
“He was really excited about Humboldt,” Gonzalez said. “He was thrilled. He wanted to go see how it is. He’s just adventurous, wanted to have a good time.”
Gonzalez said his friend wanted to study kinesiology and hoped someday to become an athletic trainer.
Lopez said that Castro was one of the many football players who would spend weekends and evenings at the Lopez house, often playing basketball with Lopez’s sons.
“We expected to say goodbye to him when he went to college, not like this,” she said. “He had a bright future in front of him.”
Photo: Adrian Castro, left, with Angel Gonzalez. Credit: Handout
Marisa Serrato, 17
The mother of 17-year-old Marisa Serrato confirmed Tuesday that her daughter was among those who died in the fiery bus crash last week in Northern California.
“You can’t imagine what we’re feeling right now,” her mother, also named Marisa, said. “We feel absolutely devastated.”
Marisa Serrato was on one of three buses headed to Humboldt State University to tour the campus. Her twin sister, Marisol, was riding on another bus and was unhurt.
Marisa and Marisol Serrato hoped to attend Humboldt State in the fall and were on their way to visit the campus for the first time.
The sisters did everything together, and they both hoped to study film and work on movies, their mother said.
“They ate together, played the guitar, did their homework together, they slept hugging each other,” she said.
On the brink of going to college and with a scholarship already in hand, Jennifer Bonilla was one of those students that teachers and administrator long for.
“She’s one of those students who is bright and shiny and eager and ready to go,” said Sherlett Hendy Newbill, a teacher at Dorsey High School in the Crenshaw district.
Jennifer was aboard the bus headed to Humboldt State that crashed. On Saturday, L.A. Unified School District officials said they spoke with Bonilla’s mother, who confirmed her daughter’s death
Noah Lippe-Klein had recently written Jennifer a letter of recommendation for a scholarship that the teenager won. He praised “her ability to think critically about the world and her profound, college-level writing skills.”
Photo: Jennifer Bonilla. Credit: Handout / KTLA
Ismael Jimenez, 18
Ismael Jimenez, a senior from Animo Inglewood Charter High School, was among those killed in Thursday’s crash, according to his sister.
Evelin Jimenez said her parents told her Friday night that authorities had confirmed her brother’s identity with a test using their DNA.
Jimenez was an honor student who was passionate about art, constantly drawing and painting, his sister said. Even though he was younger, she could often depend on him like he was an older brother, she said through tears Saturday.
“His love for art was amazing, that’s all he did,” his sister said. She recounted how he always made drawings for everyone in his life — horses for his mother, who treasures them, and as gifts for his girlfriend of nearly three years. She said he was “beyond excited” about moving on to college and pursuing a career involving art.
Photo: Ismael Jimenez. Credit: Family photo
Denise Gomez, 18
Denise Gomez, a senior from Animo Inglewood Charter High School, was among those killed in Thursday’s crash, according to the sister of another victim, Ismael Jimenez, who said she was told by a cousin of Gomez’s that her death had been confirmed to her family.
Gomez and Jimenez had been close friends since the seventh grade. They were part of a tightknit circle of friends who first became close hanging out by a big oak tree in middle school, said Frankie Martin, also a senior at Animo and a member of the group. The friends had an impromptu gathering Friday night to pray for the two at Martin’s Inglewood home. More than 60 people showed up with letters and photos, Martin said.
“That’s pretty much all they’re holding on to,” he said.
Martin said Gomez was a music lover who played the guitar and led the Earth Club at school. She wanted to go to Humboldt because she liked how remote and surrounded by the outdoors it is, he recalled. When Martin was feeling unsure about going to college and thinking about enlisting in the military, Gomez looked straight into his eyes and passionately implored him to continue his education, he said.
“They were going to see their futures, and instead their life was cut short,” Martin said. “At this point all we can hope for is that they’re in a better place.”
Photo: Denise Gomez. Credit: Friend
Tim Evans, 32
Tim Evans, a 32-year-old husband and father of two young girls, has been identified as the FedEx driver who died when his freight truck slammed into a charter bus last week in Orland, killing 10.
Debbie Otto, the stepmother of Evans’ wife, Candice, described her son-in-law as a gentle, devoted family man who always wore a smile.
“He was never in a bad mood, never angry,” Otto said. “He’s like the Boy Scout that would always stop and help the little old lady. But he was like that with everyone.”
At family gatherings, nieces, nephews and cousins “gravitated” toward his laughter and good nature, she said.
Evans was also a hands-on father, coaching softball and soccer teams and making his signature breakfast burritos on the weekends, Otto added.
“We are all just wondering if we can all just wake up already. It can’t be real,” she said.
Evans and his wife were high school sweethearts. In a Facebook post, Candice Evans said her husband was “my best friend, my teammate, my rock, my partner in crime.”
“He was the guy who ‘just stopped by to say hi’ and had a way of making everyone feel happy,” she wrote.
Officials have said the two semi-trailers — one partly loaded, the other empty — and was returning to Sacramento when the collision occurred.
Talalelei Lealao-Taiao, 53
Talalelei Lealao-Taiao, 53, was driving the charter bus that was struck by a FedEx freight truck last week, killing her and nine others.
In a statement posted by her employer, Silverado Stages, Lealao-Taiao was remembered as a “friend, driver and valued employee.”
Lealao-Taiao, 53, joined the company in late March after her former employer closed its Sacramento bus yard.
“She had a very clean, spotless safety record when she was with us and was very well-liked by everybody she worked with,” said John Busskohl, chief executive of Ryan’s Express Transportation, where Lealao-Taiao had worked for about 2-1/2 years before moving to Silverado Stages.
News of her death hit his colleagues hard as well, Busskohl said.
“It was tough on some folks here for sure,” he said.
Both she and the driver of the FedEx truck were killed in the collision on Interstate 5 north of Sacramento. The bus ws carrying 48 people, including 44 Southern California high school students en route to Humboldt State University.
In a Facebook post, Lealao-Taiao’s daughter, Jordayna Lealao, thanked friends and family for their outpouring of remembrances.
“This is a time that we should celebrate the beautiful life my mother lived,” the post read.
Top photo: Candles at the scene of the crash early Friday. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times
Sources: Los Angeles Times reporting