2017-06-23 / Front Page

Rio Mesa senior killed day before graduation

CHP says driver who struck teens was DUI
By Daniel Wolowicz

Fernando Buenrostro Fernando Buenrostro Tragedy struck Rio Mesa High School’s Class of 2017 just a day before seniors walked across the stage to receive their diplomas Friday.

In the early morning hours of June 15, an alleged drunk driver rear-ended a car with three Rio Mesa seniors stopped at the intersection of Central and Vineyard avenues, according to the California Highway Patrol. The teens were returning home after spending Grad Night at Disneyland as part of their end-of-the-year festivities.

High school officials announced Monday that El Rio resident Fernando Buenrostro, 18, died due to injuries from the accident.

According to the CHP and Rio Mesa officials, Buenrostro was driving home two other friends—Christian Silva and Alex Chiquito—from the campus on Central Avenue around 4:40 a.m. Thurs., June 15.

Buenrostro’s 2001 Ford Mustang was stopped at a red light behind a Honda Accord on the westbound side of Central Avenue, police said.

The Mustang was struck from behind by a 2012 Hyundai Elantra driven by Mario Arjon, a 27-year-old Ventura resident. The collision forced Buenrostro’s car into the Honda.

Buenrostro was taken to Ventura County Medical Center for his injuries.

Rio Mesa officials didn’t know and the CHP wouldn’t say where Silva and Chiquito were sitting in the Mustang, but investigators said one was injured and had to be taken to the hospital with Buenrostro, and the other was treated at the scene. Both of the teenage passengers, however, were well enough to attend graduation the next day.

The 50-year-old driver of the Honda that was rear-ended was not injured, according to CHP.

Arjon, reports showed, was not injured in the crash. He was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. CHP Officer Kevin Denharder couldn’t comment on Arjon’s blood-alcohol level at the time of the crash, and the CHP didn’t release how fast he was driving when he struck Buenrostro’s car.

“This is an absolutely tragic collision that occurred, and it’s completely preventable,” Denharder said.

Arjon was booked at the Main Jail in Ventura and has since been released. He is due back in court June 30, records show.

Because the accident resulted in the teen’s death, Arjon could face manslaughter or murder charges.

Principal Mark Contreras said Buenrostro was “the nicest, most positive kid,” who was always smiling. He was one of many siblings, Contreras said, and the tragedy was especially hard as one of his sisters, Mayra Viveros, had worked in the school’s front office for a number of years. He said the teen came from a great family.

Counseling services were provided for students, Contreras said, adding that news of the well-liked student’s death affected many on campus.

“You couldn’t find someone to say a bad thing about (him),” the principal said. “He was just a fantastic guy.”

Other teachers said likewise about the teen.

“I had Fernando my first year at Rio Mesa,” wrote math teacher Nikki Waller via email. “He always came into math with a smile on his face. He worked hard and was always friendly with all he came in contact with. I will always remember him for his cheerful and infectious positive attitude.”

“He was a leading voice in a ton of our group projects,” said American government teacher Brandon Fuchs via email. “He was very interested and respectful when it came to class discussions and gave his 2 cents in many of our political debates. Fernando was a very friendly young man. My heart aches for his family and friends.”

Math teacher Yen Law taught Buenrostro in both his freshman and senior years.

“He was kind, he was generous, he was such a hard worker,” she wrote in an email. “The world is a little darker for having lost his bright smile.”

Because he was in the intensive care unit during graduation, a moment of reflection was taken in his honor by those in attendance at the evening event.

“It’s a very tight-knit community here, so when someone experiences this type of tragedy, it most definitely affects us all,” Contreras said. “We can only hope that this helps people choose not to drink and drive.”

Denharder said that with the start of summer, law enforcement sees an uptick in drunk drivers. He said CHP will have maximum enforcement over the Fourth of July weekend from Fri., June 30 to Tues., July 4.

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