Bishop Amat volleyball standout
remembered as dedicted to team

August 16, 2005

by Ben Baeder
of SGV

For 18- year-old Don Gangcuangco, pushing himself to the limit was no big thing.

When he hurt his ankle just weeks before his volleyball team at Bishop Amat High School was scheduled for a playoff game this spring, he spent every lunch break doing rehabilitation exercises in the school's training room until he was healthy enough to rejoin the squad, his coach said.

And he sometimes took it to the limit on the road, too, his friend said.

Gangcuangco loved zipping around in his 2000 Toyota MR2 Spyder, which was outfitted with a carbon-fiber hood to reduce the car's weight.

But officials say the former volleyball standout may have pushed himself too far.

Gangcuangco lost control of his car while driving above the 30- mph speed limit on winding Covina Hills Road in an unincorporated area between San Dimas and Covina at about 10:20 p.m. Monday, according to a report from California Highway Patrol Sgt. Keri Clark. The car went down a small hill and hit a tree.

The impact killed Gangcuangco, according to the CHP and friends.

"I think he was just going really fast and lost control,' said Christopher Ayo, 18, Gangcuangco's best friend, who visited the crash site.

"You could, like, imagine it when you go to the site,' he said. "You can see the tire marks on the street. Damage done to the tree. Blood on the tree. It was awful.'

Ayo grew up down the street from Gangcuangco in West Covina.

They played on the volleyball team at Bishop Amat, graduated from the school in June and planned to attend UC Riverside.

They even hoped to buy a house together, Ayo said.

"I have known him since I was like, 1 year old,' Ayo said.

Gangcuangco's former volleyball coach at Bishop Amat said the team's 2005 m ost v aluable player was the last person he would have thought would die a tragic death.

"He was the most clean-cut guy on the team,' said Chris Lozano, the school's varsity volleyball coach.

Although he was only 6 feet tall small by volleyball standards Gangcuangco was the team's outside hitter and helped lead the school to the 2005 Del Rey League title, Lozano said.

"He was just such a good guy,' Lozano said. "I was actually hoping to ask him if he would help coach this year.'

Friends and family are looking to hold a funeral service Monday at Forest Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Covina Hills, but they are still trying to finalize details, Ayo said.

Gangcuangco's father, Peter, said his son was a "very, very good boy.'

"Everybody liked him,' he said.

For Lozano, a lasting image of Gangcuangco stands out in his mind, he said.

"I remember seeing him crying when he hurt his ankle,' he said. "I walked up, and he wasn't crying because he was hurt, he was crying because he was mad, because he couldn't help the team.'