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Teen killed in South Anchorage crash remembered for big smile, big heart

Tegan Hanlon
Tegan Hanlon

The parents of Brandon Muller, the Anchorage teenager killed in an early Thursday morning SUV rollover, say he was determined, loving and inspirational.

"We don't know if he had an enemy in this world," said the 17-year-old's father, Darren Muller.

Around 3:20 a.m., Brandon was traveling with two other teenagers in a Chevy Trailblazer westbound on O'Malley Road. Near the Commodore Drive intersection, the driver lost control.

The SUV rolled multiple times, barreling through a privacy fence and landing on its roof in the backyard of a condominium complex. None of the occupants were wearing seat belts, police said.

Muller was thrown from the vehicle as was 18-year-old Damien Doctolero. Medics pronounced Muller dead at the scene. Doctolero was taken to the hospital where he remains in critical condition, said Jennifer Castro, an Anchorage police spokeswoman.

Chynna Tiernan, 16, was also in the SUV. She was able to exit the vehicle on her own and asked neighbors to call 911 amid tears. Tiernan was in the hospital Friday evening in stable condition but with severe injuries, Castro said.

Police said "excessive speed" may have contributed to the severity of the crash, but many details are still shielded by the investigation -- like who drove and what caused the rollover.

For Darren Muller and his wife, Faith, the narrative of the night that killed their son isn't one they're ready to relive. Instead, the family, relatives and friends indulged in memories Friday of the brown-haired boy who loved the Chicago Bulls and exercised tirelessly.

"We're trying to live in the moment," said Brandon's father. He stood facing his wife in his Abbott Loop home's basement and propped his cellphone on a nearby window ledge. On the screen his son beamed in a black sweatshirt and thick-rimmed glasses.

Brandon Muller attended SAVE High School. He had four brothers and three sisters. The younger ones climbed on him like a jungle gym, and all the boys played basketball. One of Darren Muller's favorite moments was seeing Brandon and two of his brothers out on the court together.

"My heart was just huge, so big," he said. "It's the greatest feeling."

Faith Muller paused quietly between sentences, looking toward the carpeted ground. She said she keeps replaying the image of her son returning home and plowing up the front stairs, smiling wide, and asking, "What's going on?"

The parents praised teachers, counselors and friends who guided their son in school and lamented that their other children lost a role model Thursday morning.

"We just want people to remember him," Darren Muller said.

"Remember his big heart and his big smile," Faith Muller said. "That's my son, that's my beautiful boy."

The families of Doctolero and Tiernan released a joint statement Friday thanking emergency responders and medical staff, stressing the importance of seat belts and asking for a solution to the "dangerous stretch of O'Malley Road." The families sent condolences to the Muller family.

"We're here to support you in any way we can," it said.

Ihro Raguindin, a senior at Service High, played basketball on the school's C team with Muller his freshman year. On Thursday night, 18-year-old Raguindin and his 10 varsity teammates grabbed Sharpies and wrote "RIP Brandon" on their shoes. The team had a moment of silence for Muller before the buzzer sounded.

Unbeknown to Raguindin, their opponents from Bartlett High showed up with "RIP" written on their wrists.

"Everyone's paying their respects because it's tough to lose someone like that," Raguindin said. The 58-53 win for Service High that night was for Muller, he said.

Police are asking anyone who has information on the circumstances before the crash to call the Traffic Unit at 786-8830.


By TEGAN HANLON
thanlon@adn.com