Those who knew the creative 19-year-old musician and writer were eagerly anticipating the next chapter of Charlotte Rose McNeil MacLean’s life, which seemed to pique in excitement during the last few months.
MacLean, a Santa Ynez Valley native, recently enrolled in Santa Barbara City College and seemed to be growing into her sense of self, setting her sights on being able to help others.
The life of the promising young artist was cut tragically short when MacLean was killed Saturday after she was thrown from the bed of a pickup truck on a rural road near Solvang.
Authorities said Tuesday that the 16-year-old driver who lost control of the truck — a Solvang resident whose name was withheld because he’s a minor — will face felony manslaughter and other charges in the case.
This week, MacLean’s family and friends were still trying to grasp the sudden loss.
Her parents, Teresa McNeil MacLean and Doug MacLean of Santa Ynez, posted a memoriam to their daughter on Facebook.
“Doug and I have no idea how we will live with this loss,” MacLean’s mother wrote. “We know many of you knew Charlotte and loved her for her sweet, caring heart, as we have and always will. I will miss her beautiful voice, her music, her sense of humor, her advice, how hard she worked the last two years to better understand herself and her place in the world.”
MacLean was fondly remembered by staff at Family Partnership Charter School, where she attended the Solvang-based independent study program through junior high and part of high school before transferring to Eva Carlston Academy in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Charter school Executive Director Todd Mitchell called the accident a “tragedy.”
“She was a talented musician, very involved with the arts and had very supportive family,” Mitchell told Noozhawk. “She was very social and will be missed by all of us.”
In a note to Santa Ynez community members Tuesday, MacLean’s parents said their daughter had been in the highest of spirits after turning 19 three weeks earlier and enrolling at SBCC.
They also said she was in the process of writing a book about Asberger’s syndrome, a development disorder MacLean had been diagnosed with last year.
“It would make Charlotte so very happy to know that I've seen poetry and songs that are being written because of her,” Teresa McNeil MacLean said. “Those of you who feel inspired to do this, please know how happy this would have made our creative kid.
“As helping people was her greatest wish (besides helping animals and making music), she would love it if her spirit could continue to inspire kindness toward teens who are ‘different’ … so that they can blossom and flourish as she did, especially this last year.”
A memorial service for MacLean will be planned sometime in the next few weeks in Los Olivos, and her parents said a fund will soon be set up so that people can make donations “to help other struggling teens with ‘broken wings’ find their true selves as she did.”
“That, we know, would have been her wish,” they said.