Parents of Utah Marine killed in California crash speak about honoring son

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OREM — The parents of a young Marine killed by a wrong way driver in a horrific California crash are speaking out in honor of their son.

Lance Corporal Matthew Ryan Adams was heading back to base from a late flight when the crash happened. The 19-year-old was about five miles from Camp Pendleton when a wrong way driver collided into his car.

“The Marine Corps sent over some staff NCOs (non-commissioned officers) to deliver the news that our son had passed away,” said Ben Adams, LCpl. Adams’ dad. “After their visit with us, they graciously offered to help us lower our flags to half-staff to honor Matthew.”

While the young Marine’s family tries to make sense of the crash, they said they just spent two weeks of a late Christmas leave with their son.

Angela Adams, Adams’ mother, said her last words to him were just before he boarded a plane from Utah back to San Diego.

“I love you, son,” she said.

Adams was killed by a pickup driver who was fleeing from police at more than 90 miles per hour. Officials with the Oceanside Police Department identified the driver as 42-year-old Christian Zurita.

He was driving southbound on Interstate 5 with his headlights off. LCpl. Adams likely didn’t see the dark truck until lit was too late.

“He had just landed in San Diego International Airport when he got in his car and was traveling back to his barracks at Camp Pendleton when the accident occurred,” Ben Adams said.

Both drivers died in the crash. A passenger in the truck was taken to the hospital. California Highway Patrol Troopers said he suffered some broken bones.

LCpl. Adams parents said he is the youngest of 4 brothers and a graduate of Mountain View High School. With a brother and grandpa in the Army, military service is his family’s legacy.

Matt’s parents said he decided to join the Marine Corps because he admired and looked up to recruiters he had met.


“They have the coolest uniforms. They’re snazzy. There’s nothing more patriotic than a Marine,” Ben Adams said of the reasons why Matt joined.

Lance Cpl. Adams enlisted in July 2019. His parents said he has a passion for trucks and working with his hands, becoming an automotive maintenance technician with the 1st Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group at Camp Pendleton.

He was responsible for the servicing, inspecting, maintaining, and repairing of motor transport equipment, according to Captain Stephen Washburn, USMC.

“He just found his calling in life,” Ben Adams said. “He just was having so much fun tearing these great big PTOs apart.”

LCpl. Adams parents said he was a man of his word, and a loving son who accepted people for who they were.

He love everybody, (and) always told everybody that he loved them – especially his parents.

–Angela Adams

“He love everybody, (and) always told everybody that he loved them — especially his parents,” Angela Adams said.

As for the driver and the senseless actions that ended the young Marine’s life, Matt’s parents said that though they still have feelings of anger, they don’t hold any ill will.

“Animosity? I don’t think that gets us anywhere in life. If I feel animosity or anger, that takes away from me,” said Ben Adams. “That takes away from my love for my son, my family and my fellow Americans. It does no good. It has no place.”

Ben Adams’ thoughts were also with the pickup driver, who also died in the crash.

“Maybe this individual didn’t have such a good life. I don’t know. Maybe he just needed a Marine to escort him to the pearly gates. He couldn’t have chosen better,” Ben Adams said.

LCpl. Adams’ awards include the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

The United States Marine Corps is assisting LCpl’s family with funeral arrangement, and released a statement from Camp Pendleton.

“Our hearts are with the Marines and Sailors of 1st Transportation Support Battalion, and we extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of our Marine,” said Brig. Gen. Bobbi Shea, the 1st Marine Logistics Group commanding general. “We will dedicate all necessary resources to provide help and comfort to those affected by this tragedy.”

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