In Memory

Bernice Torres, left, carves a heart in a tree Monday as Nicole Balbuena, right, lights a candle at a memorial where Luis Adrian Torres died in a car crash on Sunday. (SCOTT SMELTZER / Daily Pilot / June 17, 2013)

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The mother of a Costa Mesa teenager killed in a car wreck this week said a resident near the crash site ordered her to take down the makeshift memorial she and others built in his memory.

Monica Soto, whose son, Luis Adrian Torres, 19, died after a wreck at 12:36 a.m. Sunday, said a woman from the nearby homeowners association demanded Tuesday that the memorial be removed. The crash site, a median belonging to the association, is private property, the woman explained.

"She wanted it taken away or she was going to call the police or have someone throw everything away," Soto said.

Soto said a Costa Mesa police officer later arrived at the scene and politely asked relatives and friends to remove the items from the base of the tree on Susan Street near Sunflower Avenue that was struck by Torres. A spokesman for the Costa Mesa Police Department was unaware of resident's request to involve a police officer.

The family members complied with the directive but say the site was the right place for them to express their grief.

"I haven't seen my boy, and that was the only place I felt like I was close to him," Soto said. "And when they did that, I said, 'How can people be so heartless? Haven't they ever lost a loved one?'"

"This is where loved ones gather to say goodbye," family friend Mary Sanders Thomas added. "It has not even been 48 hours since this took place. How can one ask a mother to do this when she just lost her child? This was not trash on the street."

Torres family members said they put everything they could manage into their car and have since reassembled a new memorial in their garage. They are keeping it private.

In the two days since Torres' death, family and friends had been gathering at the crash site, slowly amassing a collection of flowers, candles and other mementos around the tree hit by his 1990 Jaguar XJ-6.

The small memorial along Susan Street was on private property maintained by the homeowners association within Providence Park, a residential neighborhood of town homes and detached single-family houses east of Susan.

Marshall Krupp, a former City Council candidate who lives in Providence Park, said when he saw Wednesday morning that the memorial had been taken down, he contacted his neighborhood's Irvine-based management company, Keystone Pacific Property Management.

Krupp said he was told that neither the homeowners association board nor Keystone had directed that the memorial be removed.

"I don't know anyone else in the association who would've done it," Krupp said.

Krupp said, having seeing the aftermath of the crash firsthand, that it was "very disrespectful for anyone to have required the removal of that memorial."

"I'm very disappointed, and there's a part of me that's angry. ... At a minimum, it should have been left up for at least 30 days. I would've supported that as a past president of the board."

He added that there may have been a safety concern with the burning candles at the memorial site, which is near shrubbery.