An investigation was underway after a special education student died of injuries he suffered in a golf cart crash on his high school campus, the school said Wednesday.
The El Modena High School student, identified by family as 15-year-old Manny Perez, crashed in a golf cart on campus about 10 a.m. Monday, said Sgt. Phil McMullin of the Orange Police Department.
The teen was taken to an area hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, McMullin said.
Orange Unified School District confirmed the student "was involved in a crash of a district golf cart on campus."
Manny's god-family and close friends say their lives will never be the same.
"What we want to know is the truth. They’ve been telling us different stories," Jajaira Larios, Manny’s friend, said.
They also say they don't believe it was an accident.
"They want to hide everything like if it’s something normal," Cristina Sanchez, the victim's god-sister, said.
Sanchez said Manny went to school as usual Monday, and then his mother received a call that the 15-year-old was in a golf cart crash on campus.
His close friends also allege the cart had the key in it, and wonder why any student would have access to it.
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Manny was on the severe end of the spectrum and had the mental age of a 3 to 5-year-old child, Robert Glassman, the family's attorney, said.
"We saw him Saturday. He was always happy," Larios said.
Students created a large sign to honor Manny on campus.
"It’s not fair for the mother because no one is ever going to cure her pain," Sanchez said.
Orange Unified School District says in a statement: "The student was never left unattended. He had two aides with him when he entered a parked golf cart. These aides immediately tried to persuade the student to exit the cart and tried to stop it as it sped forward and ultimately crashed."
The family's attorney said a wrongful death lawsuit would be coming.
Students planned a peaceful protest on campus at 6 p.m. Wednesday wearing "Justice for Manny" shirts.
"No other students were involved in the accident," according to the district. "We were devastated to learn that he died from those injuries in the hospital. A letter was sent to families of El Modena High School alerting them to this heartbreaking incident. We take student safety very seriously and maintain appropriate supervision when students are on campus. At the time of the incident, the student was supervised by a one-to-one aide who attempted to stop him from operating the golf cart. We are cooperating with law enforcement to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the accident.''
In a letter to families from the superintendent's office, officials said, "Words are insufficient to describe the pain our students and staff are now feeling... Our top priority as a district has always been to ensure the safety, health and well-being of those we are privileged to serve. More than anything, we owe it to our students to provide them with safe and supportive campuses that cultivate learning. This tragic accident has devastated our community, and we continue to gather the facts. We will work closely with our law enforcement partners as they complete their investigation into the circumstances of this accident.''
The district has provided a team of school psychologists to help anyone in the community who needs it, officials said.
His loved ones have started a GoFundMe account here to help the family.
Gene Kang contributed to this story.