Hundreds of people gathered at Dublin High School this week to pray, hug and cry, but also celebrate the lives of three students — including twin 16-year-old brothers — killed in a Christmas night car crash near Pleasanton.
Classmates, parents, school officials and the teens’ families lit candles and shared stories to remember Javier Ramirez and his friends, Michael Angelo and Mark Anthony Urista, as boys who lived their shortened lives to the fullest.
“In times of grief, one of the most healing things we can do is to come together as a community to support each other and hold each other close,” Dublin High Principal Maureen Byrne told the crowd.
Those gathered also prayed for Samantha Vargas Arceo and Jared Reynoso, two classmates also injured in the crash. Jared, a cousin of the Urista brothers, reportedly was in a coma at press time. Samantha was said to be improving.
How the crash at 10 p.m. Dec. 25 occurred remained under investigation. According to the California Highway Patrol, the teens’ car veered for unknown reasons from the southbound to the northbound lanes of Foothill Road near Castlewood Drive as they drove in the unincorporated area. The Hyundai struck a power pole and slammed into a tree.
The Urista brothers and Javier died at the scene. Samantha and Jared were thrown from the car into the street.
Steve Tangney, who lives near Foothill Road, said he and his wife were about to open Christmas presents when they heard tires squeal and a “tremendous crash” with multiple impacts. Figuring he had heard a bad crash, Tangney immediately called 911 and heard sirens respond within a couple of minutes.
Tangney surmised that the driver hit a ditch on the right side of the road at high speed, overcorrected and “ended up where they ended up.”
The car, he said, slid into the tree on its side, smashing into it roof first.
“I’ve never seen a car so completely C-shaped,” Tangney said. “It took a long time to get that car extracted off the tree.”
Another motorist stopped to help. Tangney said he retreated when the damaged power pole snapped and the transformer ruptured, sending sparks showering to the ground. Power was knocked out to nearby customers; the road was shut down for several days.
CHP Officer Tyler Hahn said alcohol did not appear to play a role in the crash, but major vehicle damage indicated speed was a factor. Although the CHP did not identify the driver, he was among the deceased.
“Many questions are still not answered because of the severity of the collision,” Hahn said.
As news of the crash spread, friends immediately began fundraising campaigns to assist the families of the deceased and recovering teens. In days, tens of thousands of dollars were raised on GoFundMe to help pay for funerals and the injured teens’ medical expenses.
Hundreds of people posted comments expressing sympathy to the boys’ families.
“Such a terrible tragedy,” James Burgess wrote. “No parent should have to experience a loss of their children. May all the wonderful memories you have help relieve the pain over time.”
Veronica Cristerna wrote that, as a mother, “My heart aches for all of the family.”
“My children, who attend DHS, and I have all of you in our thoughts and prayers,” she said.
At Dublin High on Sunday, a light rain that fell throughout the day stopped as the vigil began. The crowd, estimated at more than 500 people, touched Michael and Mark’s mother, Ana Reynoso, as she addressed them.
Reynoso said the number of people warmed her heart, and that her sons would have liked it. Reynoso said that her sons loved Dublin and, when she had once considered moving away, told her she would have to go without them.
“It’s beautiful seeing everybody here,” she said. “We have a lot of amazing memories of all of them. The boys had so much life. I am extremely grateful about the love and support the community has shown us.”
Speakers, which included the teens’ girlfriends, said the boys always put others ahead of themselves.
“We will meet sometime in the future,” one girl said.
The Dublin Unified School District offices were closed for the holidays. On the district’s website, Superintendent Dave Marken said grief counselors and staff members will be available for students when they return to school on Jan 7.
“Our hearts are absolutely broken for our students, families and Dublin High School staff,” Marken wrote. “This is a devastating loss to our community and it is important that we remember to take care of one another during this critical time.”
Doug Jorgensen and Bruce Gach contributed to this report.
Several GoFundMe accounts were established to assist the families. They are:
• Mark and Michael Urista Financial Support: www.gofundme.com/f/mark-and-michael-urista-financial-support
• Urista Family Benefits: www.gofundme.com/f/urista-family-benefits
• Jared Reynoso: www.gofundme.com/f/angelica-reynosos039s-son-jared-in-coma
• Samantha Vargas Financial Support: www.gofundme.com/f/samantha-vargas-financial-support