Friends and family say they will remember Justin Price's adventurous spirit, lust for life and generosity toward others.
Price, a 32-year-old Pasadena resident and 1996 graduate of La Cañada High School and Hillside School, was killed Saturday in an early-morning car accident on the eastbound Ventura (134) Freeway.
"He really lived life for the moment, and that was what I appreciated about him," said his girlfriend, Zhanna Pogosyan.
Gathered in the living room of his parents' home in La Crescenta on Saturday afternoon, those close to Price said they were still trying to make sense of the accident.
Price was driving his Honda Civic at 115 mph eastbound on the 134 Freeway around 4 a.m. Saturday when he drifted into the fast lane and rear-ended a GMC van that had just entered the freeway from Harvey Drive, according to the California Highway Patrol report. Price was killed on impact.
The collision caused the van to overturn and slide across the raised median, coming to rest on the connector road to the freeway, according to the report. The driver reported minor injuries.
Officer Ming-Yang Hsu, a CHP spokesman, said his office would work with the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office for an investigation into the cause of the accident, including a toxicology report.
Family members said they believe Price fell asleep at the wheel after a late night with friends from his local baseball league. They said he was not known to speed or drive recklessly and was especially careful with his aging Honda.
They recounted stories of Price throughout the years; his love for surfing and photography, his passion for drought-tolerant landscaping and his many hours spent working with autistic children.
"He was just so full of life," said his mother Jan Michalsen. "He thought spend your money now, do everything now, just enjoy life."
After having to cope with learning disabilities as a child, Price decided to use his experience to help children with autism, Michalsen said. He graduated from Cal State Northridge in 2005 with a degree in psychology.
Price was working as a behavioral therapist 10 years ago when he met Pogosyan, who also worked as a therapist. She said she was instantly drawn to his magnetic personality and green eyes, and they quickly became friends. They began dating three years ago.
Even after he left his job as a therapist to pursue other career opportunities, he continued to work with autistic children, having them over to his home each weekend.
"He loved kids," Pogosyan said. "I think one of the things I loved about him was I could see he would be such a great dad."
In the wake of his death, family members said they hope to learn from Price's ability to live each day in the moment.
"The one thing I know he taught me," Pogosyan said, "was to embrace life because it's too short."