Tribute held for soccer players killed in Irvine crash

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- The American Youth Soccer Organization organized a heartfelt tribute Saturday for two of the five teenagers killed in a fiery crash in Irvine.

Fellow soccer players stepped back on the field for their first game since the tragic deaths of two of their teammates.

Matthew Melo, the son of the team's coach, and Alejandro "Alex" Sotelo were two of those killed when the car careened off the southbound 5 Freeway between Sand Canyon Avenue and Alton Parkway and burst into flames on Oct. 4.

Family members of both boys took part in a vigil before the team's game at San Juan Capistrano Sports Park Field.

"Each year, we'll award a scholarship to two different players, one in Matthew's memory and one in Alex's," an AYSO staff member announced.

Matthew's father, Ivan Melo, is a well-known AYSO volunteer and coach. The community has rallied around the coach and the families, raising money to help pay funeral expenses. Team members wore special jerseys paying tribute to Matthew and Alex.

"It's just a way to honor our boys and feel like we have a part of them with us, the sense of having them still as the team," said team mom Kimberley Harden. "They're still on the team, they're still a part of it. They might not be here physically, but they're definitely here in spirit."

Family members say Alex and Matthew both loved soccer.

"It just touched our hearts to know that there were so many people here for him, that knew how good he was," said Alex's sister, Sandra Sotelo.

"It was him and his dad's life, five days out of the week, practicing games all weekend long," said Matthew's cousin, Jason Jerez.

The families say the overwhelming support is helping them cope with the loss.

Ivan Melo plans to keep coaching the team.

"It's gonna be his therapy, and he'll kind of feel close to Matthew and stay with the team, and it's gonna help him just keep busy and just get through this, one day at a time," Jerez said.

The Region 87 Youth Soccer Organization also plans to donate funds to help the families of the other victims of the tragic crash.

The five fatal Irvine crash victims, from left to right: Matthew Melo, Alex Sotelo, Brandon Moreno, Jenny Campos and Jenny Bahena.

Brandon Moreno, Jenny Campos and Jenny Bahena were also killed in the crash. Bradley Morales, the 16-year-old teen driver, was the lone survivor. He did not have a license or permit, according to the CHP.

It remains unclear what caused the collision, but skid marks on the freeway and the distance the car traveled after hitting a guardrail suggest speed possibly played a role.

Authorities are asking anyone who witnessed the crash to contact investigators at the CHP's Santa Ana office.

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