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Lighted balloon vigil for teen killed in Waukegan street racing accident

Abigail Mor15 (left center) Jasmine Ortiz 15 (right center) both Waukegan hold their candles balloons during vigil for Jose Pimentel

Abigail Mora, 15 (left center) and Jasmine Ortiz, 15 (right center) both of Waukegan hold their candles and balloons during a vigil for Jose Pimentel at the Waukegan lakefront Thursday night. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 29, 2013 10:33AM

Over two hundred red and white balloons rose up from Waukegan beach Thursday night in honor of Jose Ivan Pimentel, a 17-year-old Waukegan High School student killed in a car accident last week.

Red was his favorite color because of the Chicago Bulls and white represented his life, which according to friends included a lot of bowling, joking around and a love of cars. He died March 22 after he crossed Martin Luther King Jr. Drive near Route 43 and was hit by one of two vehicles engaging in illegal street racing.

“I appreciate everyone who came,” said his mother, Lupe Pimentel, who was there with her husband, Ezekiel, and many family members. “I know no one will forget him and always love him. . .From up there he will be looking down on us,” she said in Spanish.

Israel Martinez, 19, of Waukegan was a close friend and translated for those who didn’t know Spanish. “He always liked going to the bowling alley,” said Martinez, “but it was more a good place to hang out.”

He tried to take pictures as the balloons floated en masse up into the dark sky. “I wish I had better camera.” He brought the sound equipment and they played “Dreaming of You” by Selena.

“That was beautiful, it was so beautiful,” said Jose Louis Pimentel, his cousin and family spokesman. “We all crowded around the family and let the balloons go. His mom broke down,” he said of the moving ceremony.

Earlier in the day they had made the final arrangements to send Pimentel’s body back to Arteaga in southern Mexico. Today, March 28, there will be a dance held at San Luis restaurant, 50 S. Green Bay Road, Waukegan.

“If there was a turnout like this,” said his cousin Pimentel, “the dance is going to crowded.

He remembers Pimentel as always looking for a ride somewhere and he always offered gas money. “I’d ask him how much you got and he’d say two dollars,” he said as the crowd laughed.

“He always asked people for stuff, but whenever anyone asked him for something he never said no,” said Pimentel.

“He always had something to say about something,” he said.

Before the ceremony Jony Benitez, 18, of Waukegan instructed the crowd to say “I love you Jose.”

“He would call me every Saturday and say ‘Let’s go bowling. I got you gas money’ and we would go,” he said. “I know it’s a cold night, but we are her and that’s what matters,” said Benitez.

This week police made an arrest in the accident after both drag racers fled the scene. The memorial to Pimentel grew so big along the roadway that the highway department asked the family to remove the candles, T-shirts, notes and balloons.

Mario Garcia, 18, of Waukegan , and charged him with reckless homicide, aggravated street racing and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. Garcia was being held on $200,000 bond at the Lake County jail.

According to witnesses, Pimentel and another friend were on their way to the bowling alley at Fountain Square around 8:30 p.m. when he was struck. Waukegan Police Cmdr. Gabe Guzman said the two racing vehicles were headed west on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive while Pimentel and a friend were walking in the same direction on the north side of the roadway. Pimentel then stepped onto the roadway, Guzman said.

Preliminary tests showed no drugs or alcohol were involved.

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