LOS ANGELES (AP) — High school students hoping to be college students and the adults who chaperoned them were among the victims when a charter bus headed on a Northern California highway toward Humboldt State University. These are brief portraits of those whose identities have been established.
Michael Myvett had spent years connecting to autistic children as a therapist, and now was playing chaperone to a different group of youth as he traveled from his Southern California home to Humboldt State, his alma mater.
He was also a proud groom-to-be, traveling with Mattison Haywood, the fiancee he proposed to in Paris at Christmas.
The couple would make it neither to the school nor their wedding, dying in a fiery highway crash instead.
“He was my grandson, the greatest grandson any grandparent could ever have,” Myvett’s grandmother Debra Loyd told The Associated Press through tears.
Myvett had worked at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders in Torrance for two years.
Operations manager Kyle Farris, one of Myvett’s supervisors, said he and another therapist heard about the couple’s death on Facebook on Friday morning and were very broken up by the news.
Farris described Myvett, a Humboldt State alumnus, as “a child at heart” who loved comic books and video games, fantasized about working as a Disney cartoonist and bonded with his young clients by drawing cartoon characters for them.
“He wanted to help people succeed, and to be a liaison and representative for high school students who wanted to attend Humboldt was in sync with his personality, wanting to facilitate people’s achievement of their dreams,” Farris said.
Myvett proposed to Haywood outside the Louvre Museum in December. Facebook photos posted by the beaming couple show Haywood teetering on the platform pumps Myvett had asked her to wear while he extended a ring on bended knee.
“That was the love of his life,” Farris said.
Separated by five minutes at birth and a waiting list as they approached college, 17-year-old identical twins Marisol and Marisa Serrato found opposite fates as they got on different buses headed for Humboldt.
Marisol, who’d been accepted to the school, arrived without incident Thursday.
There was no word on Marisa, her “baby” sister who was on the school’s wait list, for nearly 24 hours before dental records confirmed she was among the dead.
Miguel Serrato said Marisol called their father Friday evening after going to see her sister’s body.
“Marisol is devastated,” the tearful brother said.
Arthur Arzola, who made it to a hospital burn unit before he was declared dead, was a Humboldt State admissions counselor and newlywed also acting as a chaperone on the trip.
From the wide grin he wears on his bio on the school website while clad in Humboldt’s tree-green and the love he expresses for the town’s restaurants, you wouldn’t know he actually lived and worked 600 miles away, where he sold Southern Californians on the pleasures of going to school in the far north of the state.
A university statement praised Arzola for his passionate commitment to helping low-income and first-generation students get into college.
The University of LaVerne in Southern California said Arzola was a graduate student in educational counseling who had recently married a LaVerne alumna and was set to receive his degree in May.
“Arthur has been described by his colleagues as one with a passion and commitment in helping students reach their academic dreams,” University of La Verne President Devorah Lieberman said.
A senior football player at El Monte High School east of Los Angeles, Adrian Castro was considering going to a California state university nearer to home but decided to give faraway Humboldt a chance and a visit.
“He told me two days ago: `Should I go up and check it out anyway?”‘ said father Raul Castro, who would see his son for the last time when he dropped him off for the trip Thursday morning.
Later that night, he got a call from Adrian’s mother, who had heard from the California Highway Patrol that he had died.
“Adrian Castro will be missed as a student and football player,” El Monte football coach Joel Sanchez told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. “He was a good young man with a bright future. He will always be remembered by the El Monte family.”