A boy without a license and lost youth

Ashley Bello, 14, of San Juan Capistrano wears her friend Matthew Melo's image. He died in a car crash Sat. morning. A vigil was held at Capistrano Valley High in Mission Viejo. (Photo from Orange County Register)

Ashley Bello, 14, of San Juan Capistrano wears her friend Matthew Melo’s image. A vigil was held at Capistrano Valley High in Mission Viejo. (Photo from Orange County Register)

Back when I was a teenager, one of my closest pals was a kid named Steve Celli.

He was a great kid. Funny. Personable. No ego. Steve and I played a lot of basketball together, and his game matched his personality—smooth, laid-back, casually effective.

Because Steve was blessed with a car, he usually drove places. And, man, Steve went fast. Like, crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy fast. I vividly recall sitting in the front seat, belt strapped, exhilarated and terrified as the speedometer went from 70 to 80, 80 to 90, 90 to 100. Steve took pride in the velocity. And, even though my eyes were often closed, so did I.

That was a long time ago.

In case you missed it, a few days ago five teenagers died in a car accident out here in Orange County, California. It was early Saturday morning, and the 1995 BMW sedan—heading down I-5 South—veered right off the freeway, up an embankment and onto a concrete barrier. The car was engulfed in flames, and five passengers (all high school students) died.

The only person who lived was the driver. His name is Bradley Morales. He’s 16. He was found outside the car, and suffered a skull fracture and an epidural hematoma.

He does not have a driver’s license.

I am furious. Beyond furious. The irresponsibility that accompanies youth is something that never ceases. When we’re teenagers, we think we’re invulnerable and invincible. Or, perhaps, we don’t consider invulnerability and invincibility at all. We just go about our days cocooned in a happy bubble, concerned with grades and dating and One Direction and such.

When I get past my anger, though, I am—truly—more sad. I’m saddened for the children who perished, of course. But I’m also heartbroken for Bradley Morales, who will carry this with him forever. There is no escape. There is no departure. Whether he serves time or not, he will forever walk with the haunting knowledge that, one horrible night, he made a decision that completed the lives of five innocents. No matter what he finds—family, God, love, glee—it will all be covered in a thick wool cloak. His life hasn’t ended, but, in many ways, his happiness has.

That is crushing.

2 thoughts on “A boy without a license and lost youth”

  1. The article I read did not mention that the driver did not have a license. As it was California law says you can’t have more than people younger than 18 at such a late hour. It begs the question where were the parents of this kid. I assume the kid took the car keys with out the parents knowing. Also according the article the accident happened at 2:15. They were coming home from Knotsberry Farm. I am guessing that Knotsberry Farm is not open that late. You assume speed was involved. Is it possible the driver fell asleep? I wonder if alcohol was involved. I wonder if the parents wondered where there kids were at such a late hour. By the way there was a 3 car crash 3 hours earlier that killed 5 people.

    1. It was Knott’s Scary Farm so the park is open later – till 1 or 2 AM. True that the kid did not have a license and even if he did, it still would have been illegal for him to drive with his friends. Also, the BMW only seats five, so I don’t know how they got six people in there. I drove by this accident at 6 AM that morning and the burned out car was still there, bodies still inside. It was unbelievable to see it way up there on the very high concrete barrier like that. No idea how that could have happened without a very high rate of speed. Horrific.

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