Community, schools bring support to grieving families

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Winters High School (Express file photo)

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By Crystal Apilado and Rick von Geldern
Express staff

Winters community members and businesses pulled together to uplift and support local families who were impacted by a tragic ATV accident last Thursday.

An outdoor candlelight vigil was organized on Friday evening at Dr. Seller’s Football Field (at Winters High School) by a community organizer. Coaches, teachers, friends and community members gathered to show their support for the families of two 14-year-old WHS students who died in an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident Thursday afternoon, as well as to show support for the other teen who was involved in the accident.

Solano California Highway Patrol reported on June 9 at 4:17 p.m, Solano Area units responded to a collision involving an ATV. According to the CHP report, the three teenagers were ejected from the ATV they were riding after it collided with a tree on Margaret Lane, east of Holmes Lane.

Noah Lichwa and Michael Bazan-Jimenez were pronounced deceased at the scene, and a third 15-year-old teen was transported to UC Davis Medical Center
for minor injuries sustained in the accident.

According to Officer David Harvey with the California Highway Patrol, the accident remains under investigation. On Tuesday morning, Harvey reported to the Express that neither alcohol nor drugs were contributing factors in the collision. Investigations can take from one month to one year to complete, he said.

Celebrating their lives
“Noah and Michael were friends since they were three or four years old,” Lichwa’s uncle Gil Frener told the Express.

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Tiffany Lichwa told the Express her brother Noah Lichwa (right) and Michael Bazan-Jimenez had been friends for 10 years. She shared this photo of the two from when they were both six years old. (Courtesy photo)

The two teenagers were set to begin their sophomore year at WHS in the fall.

Winters Police Chief John P. Miller told the Express he estimated about 200-250 people were in attendance at the candlelight vigil on Friday evening.

At the candlelight vigil, Daniel Ward, WHS Athletic Director and varsity football coach,
addressed attendees and said “nothing can prepare you or get you ready for this” and asked the community rally behind the three families.

“This one has truly rocked us to our core,” Ward said.

Ward told vigil attendees, “I think the thing that we all need to do is love harder”

“If I’ve learned nothing from this, I’m going to do better at telling the people I love and I care about the most that I love them on a daily basis, and I hope that you guys do the same. Because I would do everything in the world to go back 48 hours and give both Michael and Noah a hug and tell them that I love them,” Ward said.

Austin Calvert, varsity baseball and junior team coach, shared stories and memories about working with Lichwa and Bazan-Jimenez this season.

“I had the pleasure this year of coaching both Michael and Noah for half a year. When I tell you that they brought joy to my life — I can’t explain it,” Calvert said.

Calvert said Bazan-Jimenez was originally one of his red shirt guys because he didn’t have enough spots on the team for everyone. But, after meeting one-on-one with Bazan-Jimenez, Calvert learned he had the heart and the desire to learn the game. Calvert said two weeks later, Bazan-Jimenez received a jersey. And, although Bazan-Jimenez was new to the game and barely knew how to catch a ball, he could run bases.

“I told him bases are probably where you’re going to be and he embraced that. And that to me is Michael. For the time that I knew him, he put everything he had into it. And that’s something that I’ll always remember about him,” Calvert said.

Calvert said Lichwa grew up around the corner from him and he’s known Lichwa “since he was a little guy.”

“Noah was pure joy,” Calvert said.

Calvert said at practice earlier, the team shared memories about Lichwa and he will remember him for bringing fun and joy to the game of baseball.

“Turns out we just wanted to sit in the dugout, and by the end they had a video of Noah at Sutter at the plate batting. And all he did at that ‘at bat’ was put pure joy and fun into the game. And that’s what the game of baseball is all about, and that’s what I’ll remember Noah for.”

He reiterated words from Ward and other speakers that the community, WHS baseball team, and friends are there for the families as they grieve and continue on.

Other family members and friends of the families took turns sharing words of grief, love and memories.

Multiple members of the community and businesses had stepped up to help provide efforts of support for the families this week.

Grief counseling support
WHS Principal John Barsotti reached out to families in a community message Friday morning.

“Our students, our families, and our staff will hear of this news and meet it with disbelief and anguish. I wish there was something that I or we could say or do so that wasn’t the case,” Barsotti said. “What we can do is to be there and to listen to anyone in pain, if we are able, and to reach out to someone ourselves if that’s what we need.”

Winters JUSD created a Crisis Intervention Team by teaming up school counselors with professionals from CommuniCare and clinicians from RISE, Inc.

Jenny Pinedo, Director of Special Education & Student Services, posted the following schedule for this week’s grief counseling and support services which are available to any member of the the Winters JUSD school community this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 1 to 5 p.m.

Winters JUSD provides mental health resources through Care Solace to students and their families. Information is available at www.wintersjusd.org.

“Please know that Winters JUSD will make every effort to offer safe spaces to connect, comfort, and compassion as we grieve this loss together,” Pinedo said.

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