High school sweethearts killed in Hacienda Heights crash
When Sabrina Castillo introduced her boyfriend to her dad, she was a little shy about the whole thing. Dad was a little shy too.
“It was basically her first love,” Steve Castillo said of his first meeting with George A. Steward. “I wasn’t prepared, but after meeting him — what a gentleman he was.... It just put a spark in her I’ve never seen.”
The 18-year-olds were killed Sunday evening when a speeding car missed a stop sign on an offramp from the eastbound 60 Freeway, went airborne and struck their pickup, the California Highway Patrol said Monday.
About 7 p.m., Steward was driving the couple northbound on 7th Avenue in Hacienda Heights in his 2015 Toyota Tacoma, CHP Officer Edgar Figueroa said. Then a car came hurtling through the air.
The driver of the 2013 Lexus ES 350 blasted past a stop sign at the bottom of the offramp, Figueroa said. The Lexus struck a concrete median at 7th Avenue and went airborne, shearing off the top of the truck.
The car landed on its roof in a Denny’s parking lot, Figueroa said.
The Lexus driver, identified as Key J. Kim, 68, and passenger Young A. Kim, 62, sustained serious injuries and were taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, Figueroa said.
The crash is still under investigation, but alcohol and drugs are not suspected, Figueroa said.
Castillo and Steward graduated in May from Los Altos High School in Hacienda Heights, where grief counselors were present Monday morning.
“Everyone’s quite upset here,” said Mary Collins, a registrar at the school. “They were great kids.
Castillo played water polo, and Steward was a football player. On graduation day, the teens posed for pictures in the pickup, which Steward received as a graduation gift, Steve Castillo said.
The teens were outgoing and goofy, he said. When Steward asked Sabrina Castillo to attend the prom in March, he dressed up as the film character Napoleon Dynamite, complete with a blond wig, glasses and a “Vote for Pedro” shirt. When they were together, they usually made funny faces at each other and took selfies, Steve Castillo said.
When Steward played football, the couple’s families sat together in the stands, he said.
“What they were doing was just amazing to watch,” he said. “People would just adore how they would treat each other.”
“They were both 18 and in love,” Brandon Castillo, Sabrina’s uncle, said in a statement through K-Earth 101, a CBS radio station where he is a producer. “The world was waiting for her to conquer it! She was one of the most sweetest, kindest, talented and smartest kids I knew.”
On Monday, a makeshift memorial of flowers and candles and a blue Los Altos football jersey lay around a tree trunk near the crash site. Car parts and shattered glass were still nearby.
They were both 18 and in love. The world was waiting for her to conquer it!
Brandon Castillo, Sabrina’s uncle
Dante Lama, a Hacienda Heights resident visiting the memorial, had heard about the crash from his son, who played football with Steward. Lama’s son woke him up late Sunday to tell him that Steward had been killed.
“He was just crying his eyes out,” Lama said. “I didn’t go to sleep with him until 1 or 2 in the morning, trying to calm him down.... How do you explain to your son that these things happen? How can I explain to him if I can’t even understand it?”
Lama said Steward was “nothing but smiles.”
“Everybody likes them,” he said. “They were very good kids.”
Flavio Veliz had returned to the Denny’s where he had seen tragedy the night before. He and his wife had just left the restaurant when his wife screamed.
A black car with two people inside was overturned. The truck was nearby. When the paramedics arrived, he said, the couple were quickly covered with a sheet.
There was still blood on the street.
“It could have happened to us or to my kids,” Veliz said in Spanish. “You never know what can happen.”
At his El Monte home Monday, Steve Castillo wore a black Van Halen T-shirt from a Hollywood Bowl concert that he and Sabrina had attended this month. They had spent the whole day together. It was just a perfect time, he said.
He was struggling to accept that his daughter was gone.
“It’s a lot of numbness,” he said.
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.