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Emotional Huntington Beach vigil for crime victims honors Las Vegas teens killed in crash

Four Las Vegas teenagers who were visiting Southern California for spring break were throwing a football on the sand in Huntington Beach last month before piling into a car on their way to get some sleep.

Some were planning to graduate from high school in a few months. One had plans to visit colleges. All had bright futures, their families said.

“They thought, ‘Life doesn’t get much better than this,’” Allie Rossi, A.J. Rossi’s older sister, said through tears during a ceremony Tuesday in Huntington Beach honoring the teens as part of an observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Shortly after 1 a.m. March 29, the Toyota the teens were in was struck by a Hyundai at Pacific Coast Highway and Magnolia Street. The Toyota, which was stopped at a red light, caught fire.

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Brooke Hawley, 17, Dylan Mack, 18, and A.J. Rossi, 17, were killed. The fourth teen, Alexis Vargas, survived the crash and is still recuperating from his injuries, authorities said.

The Hyundai driver, Bani Duarte, 27, of San Clemente, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. She has not been charged, according to Orange County Superior Court records.

“[Brooke] was killed instead of someone taking a $10 Uber,” said Amanda Williams, a friend of the Hawley family. “No parent should have to live without their child because of the decision of another to drink and drive.”

Tuesday’s ceremony honored other victims with ties to Huntington Beach. Local Crime Victims’ Rights Week ceremonies began four years ago in honor of Robin Samsoe, a 12-year-old girl who was abducted from a street in Huntington Beach in June 1979 and murdered by serial killer Rodney Alcala, Police Chief Robert Handy said.

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Vigils and other public events to remember the dead were not popular at the time Robin was killed, but decades later, community members and city leaders felt it was important to honor her memory, Handy said.

Law enforcement’s focus often is on the suspect in a crime, not the victim, Handy said.

“We sometimes miss the opportunity to grieve with our victims, to console them and to honor them,” he said. “This gives us an opportunity to do that.”

Family and friends of several victims spoke Tuesday to share stories about their loved ones. The common thread was that they had more to do before their lives were ripped away.

See a video here.

Andrea Castilla’s aunt Marina Parker spoke about the pain of losing her 28-year-old niece, who was one of 58 people killed in a mass shooting during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas in October.

Parker said Castilla, a Huntington Beach resident who graduated from Estancia High School in Costa Mesa in 2007, was like a daughter to her. Castilla briefly lived with Parker and her husband as a teenager after Castilla’s mother died of breast cancer, Parker said.

“Nothing will bring her back,” Parker said. “There is no excuse good enough for taking away our precious niece. We’re left with unbearable sorrow thinking of the life she never got to live.”

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hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN


UPDATES:

2:25 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with comments and details.

This article was originally published at 8:40 a.m.


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