According to police, one or more people may now face criminal charges after they discovered that an 18-year-old girl hosted the party and served alcohol, turning good times into tragedy.
There was much despair at South Pasadena High School, and class was delayed so that students could gather and grieve at a huge memorial mural.
"He really did everything with passion and there was nothing he didn't give 110 percent to," said student Timothy Lee, the junior class president.
Salek was to have celebrated his 18th birthday Monday, but a party invitation on the Internet changed everything.
"It had been advertised on Facebook that there was a $5 admission charge. Alcohol was available and served to the guests," described South Pasadena Police Chief Dan Watson.
The party took place at an Altadena house five miles from South Pasadena. Approximately 75 to 100 juveniles gathered there, and the alcohol flowed. No parent was present, and Salek's friends realized he had too much.
"He appeared to be passed out, so they put him in the back of their car, drove him here, then realized they checked because he wasn't making any noises and there was no pulse," said Watson.
Salek never gained consciousness. Monday, while police investigated the circumstances, the spotlight was on a star student.
"He was a leader among students. He was our school board student representative to the school board. He was in student government, a reporter on the newspaper, so he was a leader in many ways and an outstanding student," said Joel Shapiro, the school's superintendent.
"He cared about cancer education and awareness. He cared about that enough to start the first American Cancer Society Club here on campus, there was no club. He mobilized the students," said Leah Lewis of the American Cancer Society.
Students grapple now with a contradiction of how someone so smart could get one choice so wrong.
"When all the information comes out, we will move forward in that regard and determine how we can help our students move forward and make something positive of this tragic event," said Shapiro.
Monday night, South Pasadena police investigators are working with the district attorney's office to determine what charges should be filed. In the meantime, plans are underway for a memorial service on Friday evening.