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Families and loved ones remember Alejandro Sotelo and Brandon Moreno

Mourners at the funeral mass for Alejandro Sotelo and Brandon Moreno at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano Friday. Photo: Jim Shilander
Mourners at the funeral mass for Alejandro Sotelo and Brandon Moreno at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano Friday. Photo: Jim Shilander

By Jim Shilander

Families and loved ones gathered Oct. 17 at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano to celebrate two lives that will not have the opportunity to fulfill the promise they’d shown after a night of fun turned to tragedy on Saturday, Oct. 4.

Alejandro Sotelo and Brandon Moreno, both 14 years old, along with Matthew Melo, 15, Jenny Campos, 15, and Jenny Bahena, 14, were killed when a vehicle driven by their friend, 16-year-old Bradley Morales, crashed and caught fire in Irvine at approximately 2 a.m., while the group was driving back from a trip to Knott’s Berry Farm.

Moreno was an eighth-grader at Carl Hankey Middle School. Sotelo was a freshman at Capistrano Valley.

Gonzalo “Gonzo” Miranda, a youth minister at the church, said in talking to the boys’ families in the days and weeks since the accident, the picture emerged of two boys with very different hopes and drives, but who shared a positive outlook on what was to come. Father Robert Capone led the funeral mass, and Kevin Vann, Bishop of the Diocese of Orange, also addressed the service.

“There have been many conversations about the boys since their passing, and while they’re difficult to talk about, the memory of these boys always brings smiles to our faces and warmth to our hearts,” Miranda said.

Moreno, the “King of Swag,” was the person who got dance floors filled at quinceañeras and parties. But he also had a tender heart, especially for young children, reading to first-graders at school and making sure they were taken care of at recess or after school.

“Whenever someone wanted to play, he never brushed them off because of his age,” Miranda said.

Moreno was also remembered by his family as “the neighborhood mechanic,” Miranda said, who made efforts to fix up the skateboards and scooters of friends.

Sotelo was remembered for being able to succeed in whatever he set his mind to.

“Was there anything he couldn’t do?” Miranda asked. “He was intelligent, athletic, artistic.”

A great swimmer, runner and soccer player, Sotelo was remembered as one who consistently strived to maximize his talent and his effort as well as creating opportunities for his teammates. He wanted to be the first person in his family to be the valedictorian of his class.

“We grieve because Alex and Brandon still had so much to live for,” Miranda said. “Over the last two weeks, I’ve had to answer many questions from the young people of our parish. ‘Why would God want Alex and Brandon, they were so young?’ ‘Why them, why not someone else who really deserved it? Why my friends?’ Everyone is seeking answers as to why this happened.”

Miranda said he’d had a difficult time answering those questions, both from the friends and families of the boys, but also himself. In fact, he said, there really isn’t an answer. The only thing that can provide comfort, he said, was faith, in this case the faith that God will not only be there, but will also allow for people to release themselves in God’s hands.

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