Hundreds honor teen hit and run victim

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by Wayne Havrelly, KGW Staff

kgw.com

Posted on August 6, 2011 at 5:01 PM

Updated Saturday, Aug 6 at 6:42 PM

CLACKAMAS -- Hundreds of white balloons were released one by one as the hearse carrying Michael Vu passed his family and friends.

"It's been so emotional because so many people have loving memories of him," said classmate Jordan Leonetti.

Vu, 18, was killed last week in a hit-and-run crash. He was struck by a vehicle from behind, while riding his bicycle in a bike lane, less than a block from his home.

Artyom Pavelnko, 28, turned himself in 11 hours after the fatal collision and was arrested on charges of felony hit-and-run and manslaughter. A judge refused to reduce his bail amount Friday, but he managed to post bail anyway and is now out of jail.

Vu had just graduated from Clackamas High School and was a full-time caregiver to his father, who suffered a traumatic brain injury. Despite the challenges, friends say Vu went through life with a permanent smile on his face.

"Michael was the happiest person I've ever met or known in my entire life," said his cousin Tina Mounlavongsy.

In just 18 years,  Vu managed to inspire hundreds with his kindness.

"I think that's a lesson for all of us, it's not the big things you do, but the little things--like a smile and just saying hello--that can change lives," Mounlavongsy said.

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