California Highway Patrol

‘His Smile Lit Up His Entire Face': Friends Remember Man Killed in Collision

Jon Charbonnet died Sunday in a collision that also killed Julius Cunanan

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“The grief is overwhelming.”

Alicia Vandegrift found it hard to put it into words.

Her family friend Jon Charbonnet of Chula Vista died Sunday in a collision along Otay Lakes Road just east of Chula Vista.

“We called him ‘Big Jon’ because he was very small in stature and huge in personality,” Vandegrift said, allowing herself to smile. “His smile lit up his entire face. He had the most beautiful crystal-clear blue eyes that would crinkle and sparkle.”

She said his personality was larger than life.

Charbonnet was an engineer but he and his wife bought the Flour Power Cakery in El Cajon in early 2020, according to Vandegrift. She said Trish Charbonnet is a baker and it was their dream to own their own business.

“They just jumped in with all their energy and all their efforts and then COVID hit,” sighed Vandegrift.

Vandegrift said Charbonnet’s father also moved in with the family in 2020, but eventually succumbed to cancer.

“So that, and the bakery, and now this,” Vandegrift said as she threw up her hands.

The California Highway Patrol said Jon Charbonnet died Sunday when his motorcycle collided with Julius Cunanan’s bicycle Sunday morning. Cunanan, a married father of two, also died in the collision. He was also from Chula Vista.

Vandegrift said her husband was Charbonnet’s close friend. She said they were on a motorcycle ride together, but her husband was far behind his friend. She said her husband hopped off his motorcycle and checked on Cunanan once he arrived at the crash scene, but Cunanan was already gone.

“And so, he asked, ‘Is there anyone else down?’ and they said, ‘There’s someone else up ahead,’” relayed Vandegrift. “So, he ran up ahead. He had no idea it was Jon.”

Vandegrift said her husband rode home after speaking with investigators. Then the couple went to speak with Trish Charbonnet and the couple’s sixth-grade daughter Ruby.

“We had to tell them, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Vandegrift said.

Vandegrift said her family will do everything in their power to help their friends. She created a GoFundMe page to support the family.

“Anything and everything we can do for them is what we’re doing because they would have done the same for us,” concluded Vandegrift.

The CHP said it is still investigating the collision.

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