Family remembers 'kind-hearted' teenager

2013-03-31T21:45:00Z 2013-04-01T18:27:09Z Family remembers 'kind-hearted' teenagerElvia Malagon elvia.malagon@nwi.com nwitimes.com
March 31, 2013 9:45 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | The mother of the Crown Point teen killed in a dirt bike crash huddled Sunday evening over a makeshift memorial near the site of the Saturday night accident.

The family quietly watched as Maria Soper-Peak prepared the memorial outside of the 4800 block of U.S. 231 a day after her 16-year-old son, Matthew Soper, died after being thrown off a dirt bike and hitting a fence post.

She and another family member tied down using a shoe string a white bunny and a laminated photo of the teen on a white cross that had "RIP MATT" written on it.

She dug holes to place religious candles and reshuffled rocks to keep them standing.

Other family members placed three plastic Easter eggs and wrote "Happy Easter We Love You."

Soper-Peak sat on the ground crying as about 20 family members huddled around her to pray.

The wreck happened when Soper was riding with three friends on the private property in Leroy when, for unknown reasons, the bike became airborne, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources said.

He landed on a fence post and was taken to Franciscan St. Anthony Health in Crown Point where he died from severe internal injuries, according to a release from the DNR.

The owner of the property told the family they couldn't set up the memorial and later called Lake County Sheriff's officers.

It wasn't clear Sunday how fast Soper was riding the dirt bike or what caused the bike to become airborne. Officials said they are continuing to investigate the crash.

Soper was one of four children, Soper-Peak said. His father is Kevin Soper and his step-father is Michael Peak.

"He was a good kid, kindhearted," she said.

He was a junior at Crown Point High School and worked at McDonald's in Winfield Township. He wanted to become a firefighter in Chicago, Soper-Peak said.

His girlfriend, Yezi Garibay, said Soper was outgoing and "was a best friend to everybody." Soper-Peak said the three other boys he was riding with Saturday were his best friends.

Soper-Peak said her son liked sports and started riding dirt bikes when he was 6 years old. She said she didn't think much of her son calling her Saturday to ask to use the truck to carry the dirt bikes.

"It was just a normal day," Soper-Peak said. "He said he would be home later. Never saw later."

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