Arlington teen involved in pal’s skateboarding death apologizes before sentencing

A teenager involved in a skateboarding stunt this summer spoke for the first time Thursday to the family of the friend he saw die.

“I lost a dear friend,” the 17-year-old said in an Arlington County court. “I can’t imagine how it felt to be a parent.”

(Arlington County Public Schools) - John Malvar

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On June 4, the teen was driving his truck as 18-year-old John Malvar hung on to the vehicle while riding a skateboard. Malvar moved from the side to the back of the truck. The driver sped up. Malvar lost his grip and fell, suffering a fatal head wound.

The 17-year-old, who pleaded guilty to reckless driving in September, was sentenced Thursday to spend a weekend in jail, six months on probation and 100 hours performing community service. The Washington Post is not identifying him because he was sentenced as a juvenile.

“I cannot take back what I’ve done, but I can definitely learn from it,” he said before his sentence was read. Since Malvar’s death, he said, he has matured, becoming more focused on his future. “I want to say I’m sorry to the family, and I apologize for what I have done.”

Malvar’s relatives were not there to hear the apology. His father died of natural causes a few weeks after his son, a death for which the 17-year-old said he felt partially responsible. Malvar’s mother died some years earlier.

“We lost our youngest brother in a senseless accident and my father from, truly, a broken heart,” Rowena Korpal, Malvar’s sister, wrote in a victim impact statement. “We are forever changed by what happened. We feel lost, hurt, angry, sad.”

Korpal, the only one of Malvar’s siblings in the United States, lives in Seattle and could not attend Thursday’s sentencing. She wrote that although she knows that the driver is hurting, he must accept responsibility for the incident that cost her brother his life.

“All I can say is that there is always a consequence for every act we do,” she wrote.

Judge Esther Wiggins agreed, saying that letting Malvar ride alongside the truck as the teen drove was “an intentional act.”

“A car is, in fact, a dangerous weapon,” she said.

The driver’s parents cried throughout the hearing. “I want to manifest my pain and my grief,” his father read from a statement. “We accompany you with great sadness through this tragic time.” His family prays for Malvar and his father at Mass, he said, and lights candles for them at home.

Friends of the Malvar family were present to show their support. After the sentencing, they embraced the driver’s parents.

Malvar would have turned 19 last Sunday. Edna Agustin, a family friend, went to the cemetery that day and was surprised to see more than two dozen young people there, some of whom had traveled hours from college to honor their friend’s birthday. She invited all of them back to her home for a celebration of his life.

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