- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Five high school students and three chaperones have been confirmed dead after a charter bus heading to Humboldt State University was struck by a FedEx tractor-trailer in Northern California. The bus and big rig drivers were also killed.

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Michael Myvett had spent years connecting to autistic children as a therapist, and now was playing chaperone to a different group of youth as he traveled from his Southern California home to Humboldt State, his alma mater.

He was also a proud groom-to-be, traveling with Mattison Haywood, the fiancee he proposed to in Paris at Christmas.


The couple would make it neither to the school nor their wedding, dying in a fiery highway crash instead.

“He was my grandson, the greatest grandson any grandparent could ever have,” Myvett’s grandmother Debra Loyd told The Associated Press through tears.

Myvett had worked at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders in Torrance for two years.

Operations manager Kyle Farris, one of Myvett’s supervisors, said he and another therapist heard about the couple’s death on Facebook on Friday morning and were very broken up by the news.

Farris described Myvett as “a child at heart” who loved comic books and video games, fantasized about working as a Disney cartoonist and bonded with his young clients by drawing cartoon characters for them.

“He wanted to help people succeed, and to be a liaison and representative for high school students who wanted to attend Humboldt was in sync with his personality, wanting to facilitate people’s achievement of their dreams,” Farris said.

Myvett proposed to Haywood outside the Louvre Museum in December. Facebook photos posted by the beaming couple show Haywood teetering on the platform pumps Myvett had asked her to wear while he extended a ring on bended knee.

“That was the love of his life,” Farris said.

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The bus was driven by Talalelei Lealao-Taiao of Sacramento, according to charter operator Silverado Stages Inc.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles told the Sacramento Bee that Lealao-Taiao, 53, had no history of moving violations, though her license was briefly suspended in 2004 for reasons that were not immediately clear.

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