Friends, Family Recall Slain Youth for Times He Made Them Smile

Times Staff Writer

David Christian Leidal of Irvine had the ability to make people smile, a trait remembered Saturday at memorial services for the 14-year-old.

More than 500 friends and relatives of the youth, who was struck and killed by a car while riding his bicycle to school Tuesday, recalled a boy well-liked for his ability to find humor in things.

“At a birthday party, when the cake was as hard as rock and no one knew what to say, David said, ‘This gives new meaning to the word ‘petrified,’ ” one of Leidal’s former teachers said Saturday at the service in Irvine’s University United Methodist Church.

Bernard Gilmore, whose son, Benjamin, was a close friend of the boy, said Leidal was playing the cello in a school orchestra once when the peg slipped from under his instrument and it fell. “David . . . went down to one knee and didn’t miss a beat,” Gilmore said to appreciative laughter.


The Rev. Michael Winstead told the crowd that Leidal, a freshman football player at University High School, had not died in vain; one of his kidneys was transplanted into a Mission Viejo High School football coach.

Coach in Good Condition

The coach, 26-year-old Jeff Bergan, underwent the transplant operation Thursday at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Los Angeles. Bergan also suffers from a damaged heart and was considered for a heart transplant as well. But his doctors said the kidney transplant may allow his heart to recover enough so that a heart transplant is not necessary. Bergan was listed in good condition at St. Vincent’s, where he was transferred Saturday from the intensive-care ward to a hospital room.

Ironically, Bergan recently had helped coach his Mission Viejo team in a game against University High School, where Leidal was a lineman. Thursday, the University High Trojans dedicated their game to Leidal when they played Woodbridge High, where the driver of the car that police say killed Leidal is a senior.


Irvine police said the driver, Pejman Brian Alaghamandan, ran a stop sign at the intersection of Michelson Drive and Yale Avenue, hitting Leidal and throwing him 87 feet through the air. No charges have been filed pending the outcome of the police investigation.

Little Bitterness Expressed

During the funeral, little bitterness was expressed. Instead, mourners dwelt on the positive, giving thanks for having been enriched by the boy’s charm.

“David was a young man full of life, full of vigor, full of promise for the future and filled with love for many, and he has met the end of life in this existence,” Winstead said in his eulogy. “God didn’t cause David’s death. Human error did.”


Members of Leidal’s football team dedicated the game balls from both this week’s games to the boy’s family. One was presented Friday to Betty Leidal, his mother; the other was placed in his casket. Some of the football players wore Leidal’s team number, “79,” on their shoes.

One of Leidal’s closest friends was Benjamin Gilmore, 14, who stood up in the church Saturday to say goodby to the boy who spent countless nights sleeping over and laughing with him at homemade videos. He remembered with a weak smile that his friend’s favorite expression was “Oh, neat!”

“I think wherever he is now, he is probably saying: ‘Oh, neat!’ ” Benjamin Gilmore said.