John Dugan’s stomach turned Tuesday afternoon as he drove by the accident scene on Woodman Avenue in Sherman Oaks. A body lay covered in the road.
“I kept driving,” Dugan said. “And I just kept thinking that somewhere out there, there’s someone who doesn’t know they’ve lost their loved one.”
It wasn’t until a few hours later that he learned it was his best friend’s eldest son.
Conor Lynch was 16 years old, with a lanky build and short, blond hair. He was jogging across the busy street during cross-country practice when he was struck by a sport utility vehicle.
Behind the wheel, according to authorities, was another Sherman Oaks teenager. Police said 18-year-old Moran Biton drove another four blocks before she pulled over next to a squad car that was in the area on another call. “I think I hit someone,” she reportedly told the officers.
Conor died at the scene. Biton now faces felony hit-and-run charges. At the spot where the teens’ lives intersected, mourners have been leaving flowers and candles.
Dugan was at the sidewalk memorial Wednesday morning when one of Conor’s aunts, Donnelle Juelsson, walked up.
Dugan held her as she cried.
“I just want him back, I just want him back,” Juelsson said. “He was the perfect kid.”
According to family and friends, Conor was self-assured and helpful — always the first person to stand up and clear the dinner plates. “He seemed to bring everyone together,” Juelsson said.
Conor’s parents, both attorneys, divorced several years ago, Dugan said. He said Conor was very close to his two younger brothers.
The boys loved sports and played basketball in a local recreational league. Conor ran for Notre Dame High School, where he was a junior.
Running cross-country in Los Angeles can be a risky endeavor because training often takes place on streets. Last October, a runner at James Monroe High School in North Hills was seriously injured when a driver ran a red light and struck him.
The Notre Dame team often trains in the school’s leafy neighborhood. Police believe Conor may have been trying to catch up with a pack of runners when he was struck by the SUV. He was jogging across Woodman Avenue midblock and not at a crosswalk, police said.
Brooke Scher was drawn out of her house by the sirens. She said she saw Biton sitting on the corner of Woodman Avenue and Magnolia Boulevard, shaking with sobs.
“She was crying and I could tell that she was freaked out,” said Scher, 18. “I mean, we’re young, and we’re new drivers. And even though I like to think that I would have stopped, I could have done the same thing. It’s just an awful situation for both sides.”
Scher, who graduated this year from Champs Charter High School, thinks Biton also had graduated from her Van Nuys school. But calls to school officials to confirm that information were not returned Wednesday.
At Notre Dame High on Wednesday, priests and counselors comforted students at a campus-wide vigil. Hundreds of people packed into the school gym for the service, during which they sang songs and said prayers, school officials said.