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  • Courtesy Photo / Courtesy photo

    Mickayla Friend and boyfriend Mateus Moore, both 16 and students at Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts.

  • David Bitton / <137>David Bitton/ <137>(Marysville) Appeal-Democrat

    Marcus and Theresa Moore listen during the candlelight vigil Sunday in Marysville for their son Mateus, who shared his father’s love of music and wanted to follow him into an Air Force career.

  • David Bitton / <137>David Bitton/<137> (Marysville) Appeal-Democrat

    A train passes as Natauja Johnson, left, and Ceyerah Miller prepare for a vigil Sunday for their relative, Mateus Moore, 16, at Earle Yorton Little League park in Marysville. He was killed Friday as he walked along the railroad tracks with his girlfriend, Mickayla Friend.

Marysville grieves for teen who saved girlfriend in train accident

Published: Monday, Mar. 24, 2014 - 10:31 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Mar. 25, 2014 - 12:14 am

Marcus Moore says his son, Mateus, and his girlfriend, Mickayla Friend, were complementary souls. She helped him with math. He helped her with other subjects. She played the alto saxophone. He played the tuba, trombone and guitar – and was learning piano.

On Monday, three days after the death of the son he called “my mini-me” and the grievous injuries to his girlfriend, Moore cried as he offered a reflection rooted in ancient Chinese philosophy. He described the two teenagers from Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts as opposites in nature who came to rely upon each other, who seemingly couldn’t exist without each other.

“She was ‘Yin’ and he was ‘Yang,’ ” Moore said.

On Friday night, Mateus and Mickayla, both 16, were walking southbound on railroad tracks in Marysville. They were headed to the Dollar Store before going to a Sadie Hawkins dance. There was a noisy baseball game going on nearby. The teens didn’t realize a train was coming up from behind them.

“My thought was they waded into a perfect storm,” Moore said.

The train sounded a warning horn and tried to stop, but it was too late. Mateus shoved Mickayla away, sparing her from the brunt of the impact. She was rushed to Sutter Roseville Medical Center, where she was in intensive care in serious condition Monday with multiple injuries. Mateus died at the scene Friday. He saved Mickayla’s life by giving his own.

On Sunday night, the community turned out in a vigil of grief and concern as hundreds of people, many holding candles and many clad in purple – Mateus’ favorite color – packed the Earle Yorton Little League park.

On Monday, Marysville Charter Academy was somber as Mateus and Mickayla’s classmates returned to school. There was a memorial of flowers and a hand-painted sign “In Memory of Mateus Moore.” Psychologists and grief counselors from the Marysville Joint Unified School District and victim services staffers from Yuba County were on campus to provide emotional support.

“Instruction was not our primary focus today, but we did our best to go on with life,” said Tim Malone, principal of Marysville Charter Academy, a school for grades 7-12.

Marcus Moore, a civilian defense officer and Air Force reservist at Beale Air Force Base, was torn by conflicting emotions. He was so proud of Mateus, whom “I could always trust to do the right thing.” And yet he had lost his oldest son, who shared his love of music, who wanted to follow him into an Air Force career. Mateus even talked about attending his dad’s alma mater, Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

“My son is my best friend, my mini-me,” Moore said in an interview Monday. “And he meant so much to me. He was my rock.”

Mickayla Friend’s mother, Sandy Friend, told Sacramento’s Channel 40 (KTXL) that Moore “sacrificed himself to save my daughter.” She said Mickayla told her at the hospital: “I remember Mateus turning and looking back. And I turned and looked back. I remember him pushing me out of way of the train.”

Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt said in a statement that the train crew “was unable to stop before the incident took place.”

“Our hearts go out to friends and family of the two individuals involved in this terrible accident,” Hunt said. “It is a stark reminder that railroad tracks are never a safe place to be.”

Dozens of people watching the nearby Little League baseball game witnessed the collision before dusk and many called for help. The Sadie Hawkins dance, at a community center near campus, was canceled and families received a call from school staff: “Something tragic has happened. Come pick up your kids.”

For Sandy Friend, the horrific event compounded a tragic family saga.

In 1996, Friend’s 8-year-old son, Michael Lyons, was kidnapped and stabbed to death. The killer, Robert Boyd Rhoades, sentenced to die by lethal injection, remains on California’s death row.

Mickayla, who was born afterward, was named after Michael, a boy she described in a 2012 Sacramento Bee guest column as “my 8-year-old angel with a smile” for whom “I will grieve for the rest of my life.”

After her son’s death, Sandy Friend became a community volunteer for an organization working with victims of traumatic events. Now, while worrying about her daughter, she is helping console and counsel Mateus’ family.

“I told her I needed her help because I don’t know what to do,” Marcus Moore said. “There is no playbook for this. She singlehandedly put that whole vigil together (Sunday night). She has been so kind in helping me. I really appreciate her.”

The Moore family moved to the area last year when Marcus transferred from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio to Beale. At home, Mateus was a doting – and sometimes demanding – older brother to his siblings, Jailyn, 10, Trevian, 8, and Gabriela, 6. He delighted in teaching Trevian the art of video games from “Pokemon” to “Call of Duty: Black Ops.” He did housework and weed whacking and saw to it that his siblings kept up with their chores.

“He was the leader, my third in command, right after my wife,” Moore said.

Mateus had played high school football, as a defensive back on his freshman team in San Antonio. But Mateus loved playing multiple instruments and enjoyed flashy marching bands as well as the psychedelic rhythms of ’60s and ’70s Pink Floyd. He dropped football for music. And in sophomore band class at Marysville Charter, he clicked with Mickayla, “a beautiful, sweet and caring” person, Moore said. They had dated for most of the school year.

Mateus’ death and Mickayla’s absence were felt Monday at Marysville Charter’s jazz band rehearsal. There were two empty seats: Mickayla’s in the saxophone section, Mateus’ in the trombone chair.

“It was rough; a couple of kids were really emotional,” said band director Matt Plummer. “We talked about how to cope, then sat down, played some music and kept them in our thoughts the whole time.”

Victoria Herrick, 16, a former student at Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts, said Mateus’ stature – big and tall for a 16-year-old – startled her at first. But she quickly saw his kindness and the positive effect he had on others.

“Mateus was a really good person. He was really smart and he was really nice with the sixth- and seventh-graders,” Herrick said. “He was really quiet, but when he spoke, everybody listened.”

On Monday, worried and grief-stricken kids at school spoke of Mickayla and Mateus, the boyfriend who saved her.

“They look at him as a great hero,” said principal Malone, “which he is.”

Call The Bee’s Peter Hecht, (916) 326-5539.

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