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2 Moorpark Teens Killed, 3 Injured in Crash

VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Tragedy: They were returning from the movies when the driver swerved to avoid a ladder in the road and lost control.

October 22, 2000|JENIFER RAGLAND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SIMI VALLEY — A car carrying five Moorpark High School students on their way back from the movies Friday night jumped an embankment on the Ronald Reagan Freeway and crashed into a tree, killing two teenagers and injuring three, authorities said.

Brooke Bronkowski, 14, was pronounced dead early Saturday morning at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, said Dave Webb, a California Highway Patrol spokesman. Shane Malloy, 17, died about 10:30 p.m. Friday at Simi Valley Hospital.

Shane was driving a white 1992 Honda Accord about 70 mph in a westbound lane of the freeway near Erringer Road about 9:30 p.m. when he swerved right to avoid a stepladder in the lane, Webb said. He lost control of the car, which spun out, went over the edge of the road and slammed into a large tree while in midair.

Authorities said neither drugs nor alcohol was a factor in the accident and all five teenagers were wearing seat belts.

Lisa Tumbarello, 14, was in stable condition at Los Robles Regional Medical Center on Saturday after undergoing surgery for a broken leg, cracked pelvis and two cracked ribs, hospital officials said.

Brooke's brother, Joel Bronkowski, 17, and Johnny Mendoza, 16, were treated for minor injuries and released, officials said.

"The hospital can put Lisa back together, and she'll be OK, but when she finds out what happened to her best friend . . .," said Lisa's father, Joe Tumbarello, holding back tears.

He said Brooke was the first student to befriend his daughter, who moved to Moorpark two months ago from New York. The girls were members of the school's freshman volleyball team.

"What I'm experiencing," Tumbarello said, "is a microcosm of how badly I feel for those families."

Friends, family members and teammates gathered in the small chapel at the hospital Saturday morning, grieving with the help of the hospital's social services counselor and on-call pastor. Friends from Brooke's youth group at Cornerstone Christian Church in Simi Valley also paid their respects at the crash site, bringing flowers and sharing memories.

Friends and family said Brooke, a happy girl and devout Christian, and Shane, an outgoing senior with a 4.5 grade point average, were good friends. Just two weeks ago, they went to the school's homecoming dance together.

"She was like a lighthouse--high-spirited and very strong," said her father, Michael Bronkowski, who has lived in Moorpark 11 years with his wife, Ellen, and their four children.

"She didn't succumb to peer pressure," he said, "and she had a lot of joy and faith. She was a very compassionate little girl."

Her faith was a key part of the teenager's life, her friends said.

"Just looking at her, you could tell she was a person of so much faith," said teammate Brooke Mueller.

Sitting in a dimly-lit chapel, holding hands and clenching tear-soaked tissues, the girls told favorite anecdotes about their friend.

"She was our laughter," 14-year-old Amber Lorenzen said.

"Whenever you felt down, she was there--she never wanted anyone to fight," added Jenna Moe, 14.

"She was like the spirit of our team that held us together," said Kassie Phillis, 14, who cried at the thought of having to play three more games in the volleyball season without Brooke.

Meanwhile, at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Moorpark, Shane's family members gathered for a special Mass.

Shane, too, was a religious boy and an active member at Holy Cross, said his father, Tom Malloy. The second oldest of seven children, he was friendly and considerate, and had a streak of luck.

"He was always finding money," his dad said. "When we went to Las Vegas he found $50 just floating in the pool."

Shane loved body boarding, fishing and played the drums, family members said. He also loved being around his friends and always had a smile.

"He's just an awesome-all-around kid," said his mother, Cyndi.

Shane's uncle, Albert Malloy, described his nephew as "brilliant," a math whiz who could achieve straight As and a perfect score on the SATs with little effort.

"He had it all--girls, sports and brains," he said.

Dave Baldwin, assistant principal at Moorpark High, said the school will bring in county mental health and crisis teams to help students and staff members deal with the grieving process for as long as it takes.

Brooke's volleyball teammates said they hope to organize a school assembly next week to memorialize the two teens.

Unfortunately, Baldwin said, the school had gone through similar tragedies.

Last year, another Moorpark student, John Lopez, 17, was killed in a head-on motorcycle collision.

"We were just kind of healing from that," he said, "when this happened."

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