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Fatal crash on Dec. 18: Services set for Nordhoff grad Juan Morales, 18

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Instagram photo

Juan Jesus Morales, 18, of Ojai holds his diploma on graduation day from Nordhoff High School on June 11.

 

By Marianne Ratcliff, Ojai Valley News editor

The family of Juan Morales is planning funeral services for the 18-year-old, who graduated from Nordhoff High School in June.

Juan died early Dec. 18 when a wrong-way driver crashed head-on into his vehicle as Juan and his passenger headed for home northbound on Highway 101, just south of California Street, at about 3 a.m.

Visitation for Juan will be on Monday, Dec. 27, at 4:30 p.m., and a Rosary at 6 p.m. at Joseph P. Reardon Funeral Home, 757 E. Main St., Ventura. A Mass will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 28, at 3 p.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 185 St. Thomas Drive, Ojai. The family is requesting people to wear all white at the service. “There is no other color that can represent Juan’s pure soul,” Juan’s sister, Erika Gonzalez, posted on Facebook.

On Sunday, Dec. 26, at 10:30 a.m. there will be a car meet for Juan that will start at the parking structure near the Ventura Pier and will include a cruise on Pacific Coast Highway.

On Tuesday, Dec. 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the Ventura Pier, there will be a lantern release. People will write remembrances of Juan on the lanterns before they are released into the night sky.

The wrong-way driver, 29-year-old Jesus Manuel Calles of Santa Barbara, suffered major injuries and was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI and gross vehicular manslaughter, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Calles was reported to be driving the wrong way on Highway 101, heading southbound in the northbound lane, in a 2007 Honda Accord, when the crash occurred, according to the CHP.

Juan’s passenger, Daniel Bernal Morales, 18, of Ojai, survived the crash with moderate injuries and was taken by ambulance to Los Robles Medical Center.

Two other local teenagers were injured when the pickup they were in collided with Juan’s Nissan 350z after it was struck by Calles.

The driver of the pickup, 18-year-old Rodolfo Auregui of Oak View, suffered minor injuries and was treated at Ventura County Medical Center. His passenger, 19-year-old Jonathan Luis Ramirez of Ojai, suffered moderate injuries and was taken to Los Robles Medical Center, according to authorities.

Photos of Juan, including ones from graduation day, were posted on social media sites with stories about him and heartfelt tributes.

Juan's sister wrote on Instagram that Juan and his friends had been driving home Saturday from the movie theater where they had watched Juan’s favorite movie, “Spider-Man.” 

She wrote, in part: “Life can be so beautiful but yet so unfair. My brother was such a goofball, always made everyone smile and laugh with his silly jokes. And I know that’s how we will all remember him.

“My biggest question in life is why, why him? A kid who had a long life to live, who had so much potential to become someone great in life, who had dreams, who had goals. A kid who always stayed out of trouble and always knew the rights and wrongs. Those who knew him will know that when something was wrong, he would come and tell you to just relax, that everything would be okay … and that’s all I can hear him say.

“I love you so much, brother. I will forever carry you in my heart and my thoughts.”

Ojai Unified School District Superintendent Tiffany Morse posted a message to OUSD families on Dec. 19:

“Over the weekend, we learned of the tragic loss of Juan Morales, a 2021 graduate, in an automobile accident. In addition, two former students, Daniel Bernal Morales and Jonathan Ramirez, were injured.

“This very sad news comes at a time when many of us are looking forward to family celebrations and perhaps none of us can imagine the sense of loss this tragedy imparts. ...

“We will have counselors available when we return from break, but if your child has an immediate need for grief counseling services, please use our HELP form at https://bit.ly/3JniWno.

"We are saddened by the loss of a bright young man who contributed so much to our school community. We are also grateful to our caring community for its genuine and ongoing concern and care for those in need.”

The crash is still under investigation by the Ventura area CHP. Anyone who witnessed or has information regarding the crash is asked to call the CHP at 805-662-2640.

 

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Juan Morales 2021 Nordhoff High School yearbook photo