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Candlelight vigil for ‘three children gone in an instant’

Times Staff Writer

Kyle Coble was a peppy kid just coming into his own. His little sisters, Emma and Katie, were darlings of the neighborhood, whether riding around together in their wagon or selling lemonade.

A year apart, the tow-headed children were everything to their parents, Chris and Lori Coble, who kept a family website chronicling the adventures of their “crazy monkeys” including their soccer games, birthday parties, Christmas mornings and trips to Sea World.

“I’m a stay-at-home mom and I love it,” Lori Coble wrote on her personal MySpace page, where she described herself as a “proud parent.”

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On Friday afternoon, the Ladera Ranch couple lost Kyle, 5, Emma, 4, and Katie, 2, after a big rig plowed into the back of the family’s minivan on Interstate 5 during stop-and-go traffic in Mission Viejo. The girls were pronounced dead at a hospital shortly after the accident, and Kyle died at the hospital about 9 p.m. Friday.

Lori Coble, 30, who was driving, and the children’s grandmother, Cynthia Maestri, 60, in the passenger seat, were badly hurt and remained hospitalized Saturday. Officials would not release information about their conditions. The driver of the big rig, Jorge Miguel Romero, 37, was not hurt in the crash, which is under investigation.

As the California Highway Patrol investigated the accident, relatives and friends of Chris and Lori Coble tried to help them cope with the unthinkable tragedy that shattered their family’s future and tore a hole in the heart of their close-knit neighborhood.

“We’re devastated,” said Sorin Lasc, whose two children played with the Coble children. “It was hard for anyone not to love their kids like their own. Everybody knows everybody’s kids and everybody’s names, which isn’t common in California, but here, it is.”

Lasc and other neighbors described the Cobles as doting parents who moved about three years ago to Bramford Street in Ladera Ranch, a master-planned community in the rugged terrain of Rancho Mission Viejo. They were a tightknit clan with lives woven deeply into a neighborhood where Lasc said “there are more kids than trees.”

The Lasc’s oldest daughter, who is 8, was close to Emma and Katie, pulling them around in their wagon and “constantly looking after them” to make sure they were safe and having fun, he said. His 6-year-old son was close to Kyle.

Kyle celebrated his birthday just last week and was one of three boys known as the “three amigos,” neighbors said. His enthusiasm for life was often on display whether it was playing soccer, getting into squirt-gun fights or splashing in the community pool.

“Kyle had a high energy for life,” said Hoke Rose, 42, who lives across from the Coble home with his wife and three children.

Rose and others remembered how all three of the Coble children helped run a lemonade stand during a recent community garage sale.

“They were great kids. Highly connected,” Rose said. “As you can imagine, this is just a big shock.”

The neighborhood was organizing a candlelight vigil for Saturday night, and ribbons were being tied around all of the trees on the block to pay tribute to the Coble children.

In the meantime, the older children and adults on Bramford Street were trying to help the friends of Kyle, Emma and Katie understand that they were never coming back, even while struggling themselves with the sudden loss.

“You have three [children] gone in an instant,” Lasc said. “It’s hard for everyone to come to terms with.”

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christine.hanley@latimes.com

Researcher John Jackson contributed to this report.


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