Three SBCC students die over winter break

Mike Gravitz, Mike Gravitz, and Mike Gravitz

Two City College students died in motor vehicle accidents and one died due to complications following surgery over the semester break.

Joseph De Alba

Joseph “Joey” De Alba died Dec. 28 along with his stepmother while riding on his Harley Davidson motorcycle.  He was 22.

Before attending City College in summer 2005, De Alba, who grew up in Carpinteria, served three years in the military as a tank driver, spending a year in Iraq during his tour.

“He was proud to have fought for his country,” said Nick Gonzalez, a close friend since childhood.

During his time at City College, De Alba worked at the bar Q’s as well as a local hotel.  Those close to him spoke of his affinity for skimboarding and relaxing days at Santa Claus Lane. 

Gonzalez spoke of De Alba’s zeal and appreciation for life.

“The guy lived life to the fullest,” he said. “He loved adventure.”

Kira Mcdonald, De Alba’s longtime girlfriend, reminisced about how De Alba loved go to skydiving, adding that was how he wanted to die.

While passionate about living life on the edge, friends said that his enthusiasm also extended to his personal relationships.

“Joseph had a really big heart,” Mcdonald said. “He would give anything to anyone in a heartbeat.”

Mcdonald said that they meant the world to each other. Describing him as confident, but not cocky, Mcdonald added that De Alba could fix anything.

De Alba was planning to transfer to University of California Santa Barbara and was considering studying physics and biology.

He is survived by his mother Lori, his father Fred, his brothers Mark, Nick and Dalton, his sister Rebecca and three stepsisters.

A memorial tribute and flag lowering on West Campus for De Alba was held on Jan. 26. 

Katelyn Wooding

Katelyn Wooding died in a car accident Dec. 29 near her home in New Jersey after her car crashed into a tree. She was 18.

Wooding was a freshman at City College and had just finished her first semester studying photojournalism.

Before moving to Santa Barbara, Wooding spent her a year abroad in England and graduated from the Academy of St. Elizabeth, Covent Station.

While friends and family were not available for comment, Wooding’s friend Karen Malyshev told The Daily Record in New Jersey that “once you were her friend, you were in her heart forever.”

The paper also reported that her friends had said that music from The Doors, Pink Floyd and The Alman Brothers would be played at the funeral to make it less somber.

She is survived by her parents, Lauri and Geoff, and her two twin brothers Kyle and Alex.

A memorial tribute and flag lowering for Wooding was held at West Campus Jan. 25.  

Mark Wheeler

Mark Wheeler, a radiographic technology student at City College, died Jan. 12 from post-surgical complications following thyroid surgery at West Los Angeles Veterans Hospital.  He was 49.

Wheeler joined the Army in 1979 and served five years with the U.S. Army Green Berets as a medic and was involved with the 1983 occupation of Granada.

Before enrolling in the radiographic and imaging program at City College, Wheeler worked with the U.S. Forestry Service as a fire fighter for several years. He also worked in automobile sales and inventory control for a large Ford dealership in Aurora, Colorado.

Wheeler, who was an avid skier, worked as a ski instructor at the Sun Valley, Idaho, ski school for a number of years.

Debra McMahon, program director and radiology chair of the radiographic department at City College, described Wheeler as being opinionated, intense, extremely physically fit and disciplined. 

Yet, McMahon added that he was a leader with a sense of compassion. 

“Mark was really good with patient care,” McMahon said. “He had a lot of empathy.” Wheeler was set to graduate this spring and transfer to Charles Drew University in Los Angeles, Calif.

He is survived by two brothers, Stephen and Christopher Wheeler.

A memorial tribute and flag lowering was held for Wheeler at West Campus yesterday.