Man who died in Aurora motorcycle crash remembered as 'very loving, caring'

Pedro Ortega remembers the day his older brother Juan brought home his first motorcycle about a decade ago.

It was yellow and black, similar to the 2005 Suzuki GSX Juan was riding when he collided with a sedan July 10 in a fatal crash on Aurora's Northeast Side.

Juan was excited, Pedro Ortega said, because he'd always wanted a motorcycle.

Juan, who everyone called "Johnny," was the more competitive brother, but some of that rubbed off on Pedro, he said.

Out of 10 siblings, Johnny, 34, and Pedro, 29, were the closest, Pedro Ortega said.

"Me and him were the ones that talked the most," Ortega said. "We would just talk to each other, sharing ideas… his dream was to help families be united. He was trying to unite our family together."

Johnny Ortega lived most recently on the 1700 block of Ivy Lane in Montgomery, according to police. He was on his way from church to meet his mom at the Chicago Premium Outlets mall in Aurora July 10, Ortega said, when the fatal accident happened. He wasn't wearing a helmet, according to police. He died from massive head injuries.

But he was not at fault, according to preliminary reports. The driver of the sedan, a 33-year-old Aurora man with three children in the car, was cited for improper lane usage for his role in the crash that killed Johnny Ortega.

Police are continuing to investigate the incident and are still in the process of talking with witnesses, police spokesman Dan Ferrelli said in an email Friday. Police have not yet established speeds and other factors relating to the crash, Ferrelli said. But there were no signs of drug or alcohol use at the scene, according to police.

Johnny Ortega was riding northbound on Farnsworth when he apparently tried to turn right into the entrance of the outlet mall at about 2:40 p.m. July 10, according to traffic investigators. Instead, he turned in front of a northbound Nissan driven by Daniel Sanchez-Hernandez, according to police.

Ortega collided with the front end of the Nissan, which caused him to be ejected from the motorcycle, hit the windshield of the Nissan and come to rest on the pavement, according to police.

Aurora Fire Department paramedics took Ortega straight to Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, where he was pronounced dead at 1:25 a.m. July 11.

As soon as Pedro heard about the crash, he flew in from California, he said. By the time he made it to the hospital, it was too late.

"I was devastated," Pedro Ortega said. "I haven't cried that way, I can't remember, I don't think I cried that way ever. To see my brother, my best friend, the person I talked to the most always… I still have that image in my head of me walking in there, them saying he was gone. I didn't want to believe it, I was grabbing him."

Johnny had been in California visiting his brother about a week before the crash. He was planning to move there later this month, Pedro said.

Johnny wanted to help others find their purpose in life, Ortega said.

"As a brother he was very loving, caring," Ortega said. "He always wanted us to strive for better. He never liked us to stay complacent. He wasn't about being average."

Once, right after Ortega had tried out for junior varsity football at East Aurora High School, he, Johnny and their other two brothers started playing two-on-two.

"I had my gear on and he's like 'You think you're tough, huh? You think you're tough? Let's go play outside,'" Ortega recalled.

Somehow, Johnny injured his younger brother's knee, and he was out for the season. Ortega was mad, but not at his brother, he said.

"He was more worried about me not playing (than I was) because he wanted to see me play," Ortega said.

Johnny liked the Bears, the Bulls, the Blackhawks and the Cubs.

He was also generous and artistic, Ortega said. He would paint portraits of family and friends, and give them the finished artwork for free. He'd write poems and give them to people.

Johnny's Facebook profile has already been changed to a memorial page: "Remembering Johnny Ortega." Nearly 100 people have left personal messages, memories and prayers for the Ortega family.

One friend remembered recurrently getting in trouble with Johnny for sneaking away from church to play on the trampoline out back.

"So heartbroken to see you move on," wrote another. "You were an amazing man who has inspired me in many ways."

Many people commented on Johnny's character, love for people, religious commitment and positive attitude.

"He was a man that wanted to change the world," Ortega said. "Some people would think that's ridiculous, how could you change that with an idea? But one person can change another person. It's like a ripple effect. If you want to change the world, change yourself. That's what he stood for… I'm going to continue that legacy for him."

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