Family and friends recall as inspirational two O.C. students killed, four other friends injured in crash on way to school dance.
The Orange County Register | May 28, 2005
By Erika I. Ritchie
Two teens were killed and four injured Thursday night after their SUV rolled over on the San Joaquin (73) Toll Road on their way to a spring dance in Newport Beach sponsored by JSerra High School in San Juan Capistrano.
Family and friends will remember Jonathan as a Christian and athlete who inspired them.
“We are all very blessed to have known him,” said neighbor Don Hunsberger, as he and others gathered Friday in an Orange neighborhood to mourn Jonathan’s death in the car crash. “He was very dedicated in everything he did.”
Jonathan, 16, led Christian youth groups at Servite High School and St. Norbert Catholic Church. He attended each gathering, bringing along his girlfriend, Gillian Sabet of San Clemente, who also died in the crash.
The Schulte family is widely known at St. Norbert and elsewhere. Thomas Schulte is an Orange County Superior Court commissioner. His sons, Jerome and Jonathan, attended the parish school. Their mother, Shirley, volunteered at the school. When she died of cancer in 2001, the school planted a rose bush in her memory.
Gillian Marie Sabet
The day Gillian died could have been one of her happiest.
The outgoing, never-without-a-smile JSerra junior had won the election for associated study body president. And – although she didn’t know it – she was to be crowned queen of the school’s Spring Fling.
After the accident, school officials dropped the ceremony.
“She was very much a leader, always looking for ways to make others happy,” said the Rev. Vincent Gilmore, who said Gillian was an A student in his religion class at JSerra.
Gillian, 17, had suffered her own loss. An older brother died of leukemia several years ago, Gilmore said.
“It really affected her as far as having to go through something like that,” he said. “It really matured her.”
Before he died, Jonathan left a last tribute to Gillian.
“Basically my entire life revolves around my girlfriend Jillian because I love her oh so very much,” he wrote in his personal Web site on myspace.com.
Ashley and Gillian were best of friends.
“They were bookends,” said JSerra High School principal Tom Waszak. “They were both very happy, and lighted up the room when they came in.”
Melbourne, 16, of Aliso Viejo suffered moderate injuries when the SUV she was driving rolled over.
Those who know her say she is suffering over her part in the accident. “I’m sure she’s grieving,” Waszak said.
Melbourne loved being part of the theater group at the school. She and Madeline Moore, who also was injured in the accident, had parts in the spring musical, “Grease.”
Her mother, Nancy Melbourne, vice principal for activities at JSerra, started the school’s California Conservatory for the Arts.
Her father, KFI radio traffic reporter Mark Denis, died of a heart attack in 2000. The Mark Denis interchange of the Costa Mesa (55) and Riverside (91) freeways was named for him.
On her personal myspace.com Web site, Madeline talks about her dreams, inspirations and her self-described awkwardness.
“I love to sing and act and dance and I’m gonna be on Broadway,” wrote the 15-year-old, who performed in the school’s “Grease” with friend Ashley.
“I love being onstage and I love making people laugh,” she continued. “I sometimes randomly start dancing.”
Madeline of San Juan Capistrano was hospitalized with major injuries from the accident.
“She’s a very energetic, outgoing and friendly girl,” said the Rev. Vincent Gilmore, her religion teacher, along with Gillian and Ashley.
She seems to have learned her lessons: “I love my God and Jesus,” she wrote on the Web site.
Ryan, a budding tenor, is well-known among the tight-knit group of students in the South Orange County School of Art at Dana Hills High School.
The 15-year-old from Laguna Niguel recently traveled to New York and appeared on “Good Morning America,” singing with a choir for The Joyful Child Foundation, established in the memory of Samantha Runnion.
But on Friday, he was hospitalized with major injuries after the accident.
His friends at the Dana Point school missed him.
“I usually see him daily at our locker going between classes and today it made my heart drop and I felt ‘Oh, where is he?’ I wanted him to come to the locker so bad and he wasn’t there,” said Jenny Santore, 16, who shares a locker with Ryan.
“It was kind of like a wake-up call for everybody,” she said. “You’ve got to be safe.”
Neighbors say 17-year-old John Buehler is a role model for other kids.
He’s the kind of teen who hangs the Christmas lights at the house of an elderly neighbor.
“John is a wonderful boy,” said Laura Bartolone, his next-door neighbor in Anaheim Hills. “He’s just extremely friendly and social … My son totally looks up to him.”
On Friday, John was recovering from moderate injuries in the accident.
An upperclassman at Servite High School, John plays the drums. He’s also a member of the youth group at St. Norbert Catholic Church in Orange.
“Everyone loves him,” said Bartolone, a neighbor for four years.
This story was reported by Jit Fong Chin, Amanda Beck, Eleeza Agopian, Lois Evezich, Greg Hardesty, Amanda Strindberg and Erika I. Ritchie. It was written by Ritchie.