Leslie Grossman told her mother that she never liked motorcycles, that she feared their power and speed. Yet among friends, the 16-year-old confided that just once, she wanted to ride on one of those powerful machines that she so respected.
The freckle-faced junior at Huntington Beach High School died at 10:39 p.m. Sunday when the motorcycle on which she was riding plowed into the rear of a car on Pacific Coast Highway, 2 miles southeast of its junction with Warner Avenue.
Leslie was thrown from the bike on impact and killed instantly. The driver of the motorcycle, Scott Melnyczok, 18, suffered only minor injuries. He was later taken to the Orange County Jail in Santa Ana, where he was held on suspicion of manslaughter and felony drunk driving.
Huntington Beach police said that neither Grossman nor Melnyczok was wearing a helmet and that Melnyczok--who had moved to Orange County from Daytona Beach, Fla., just 8 months ago--was speeding southeast when he hit the car.
Randy Seymour, 32, of Garden Grove was driving the rammed car. He said he did not see the bike coming, and he speculated Monday that the motorcycle’s lights may not have been on.
“It’s like they came out of nowhere,” Seymour said. “When I pulled over, I still didn’t know what hit me.”
Leslie’s family, friends and schoolmates tried Monday to come to grips with the death of a girl who seemed quiet to some and outgoing to others.
‘Didn’t Ride Motorcycles’
Leslie’s mother, Cheryl Knox, said her daughter had been working for several months at the Athletic Xpress shoe store on Beach Boulevard and had planned to meet a girlfriend and two young men for dinner Sunday night.
“They were planning to fix a dinner for the boys,” she said. “Leslie called here at 9 o’clock and said they were having dinner, and then they were coming home. I don’t know why Leslie left with this guy. I don’t know why she didn’t come home.”
Knox said she was shocked about the way her daughter died: “Leslie didn’t ride motorcycles. She had always been afraid of them.”
Knox said she did not know Melnyczok. Some of Leslie’s friends said the dinner was the first time the two had met.
Contacted in Daytona Beach, Melnyczok’s mother, Lee, said she knows little about the accident other than that “there was a fatality. I don’t know everything that is going on. I don’t know how the family of the girl is doing. I talked to Scotty, and he is very upset.”
She said her son moved 8 months ago “because he wanted to go to California.”
Robert Morris, manager at Athletic Xpress, said Leslie had worked from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Sunday before leaving to meet Melnyczok and two other friends. Morris said the teen-ager had talked about going on her first motorcycle ride. “She was kind of excited,” he said.
Morris said he and co-workers had tried to discourage Leslie from riding on the bike. “We said, ‘Why don’t you just take your car?’ ” Morris recalled.
Barbie Hodge, Leslie’s best friend in school, described her Monday as “really spontaneous, very outgoing.”
Barbie said that Leslie and Melnyczok had met just a few hours before the accident and that her friend had often talked about wanting to ride on a motorcycle.
Leslie’s death was announced at 11 a.m. over the loudspeakers at Huntington Beach High School, where she had returned after a year attending nearby Ocean View High School.
After the announcement, Huntington Beach High School Principal Gary Ernst told students to gather in a conference room near his office if they wanted to talk about the accident.
Throughout the day, grieving students filed into the conference room to meet with school psychologists and a staff member from Los Altos Hospital & Mental Health Center.
Connie Luizzi, a school psychologist, said the students came “looking for answers. Some were crying. Some were in a state of disbelief.”
By the end of one session, Luizzi said, some students were remembering the good things about Leslie, and their tears and sobbing slowly turned to “smiles and laughter.”
Clarence Stanford of the Los Altos Hospital said he planned to meet with 34 more students from Grossman’s algebra class today to discuss the incident.
“It’s really a sad thing,” said Julie Herbst, who was on the swim team with Grossman during their freshman year.
“When you didn’t really know her, she was quiet,” Julie said. “But she was really nice and open around her friends.”