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Three SoCal Residents Among Service Members Killed in Kabul Airport Attack

Pictured left to right. Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, and Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola.
U.S. Marine Corps
Pictured left to right. Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, and Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola.

Three Southern California residents were among the 13 U.S. service members killedduring the attack at Kabul’s airport on August 26th.

Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui of Norco, Cpl. Hunter Lopez of Indio, and Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola all lost their lives in the bombing.

Nikoui graduated from Norco High in 2019 and was a member of their Air Force JROTC. His father, Steve, told The Daily Beast that his son “loved what he was doing” and that “he really loved his [Marine Corps] Family.”

Corporal Hunter Lopez was 22 and was a Riverside Sheriff’s Explorer Scout in Palm Desert from 2014 to 2017. In a statement on his Facebook page, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said he was “Unbelievably saddened and heartbroken for the Lopez family as they grieve over the loss of their American Hero.”

Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola was 20 and from Rancho Cucamonga. In an interview with KCBS, his mother, Cheryl, said Dylan was "One of the best kids ever. Kind. Loving. Giving to every single person. He would give anything for anybody."

The following are the additional names of servicemembers lost in the attack, released by the Department of Defense.

U.S. Marine Corps

  • Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza of Rio Bravo, Texas.
  • Sgt. Nicole L. Gee of Sacrament, California.
  • Cpl. Humberto A. Sanche, Lance Cpl. of Logansport, Indiana.
  • Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo of Lawrence, Massachusetts.
  • Cpl. Daegan W. Page of Omaha, Nebraska.
  • Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover of Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum of Jackson, Wyoming.
  • Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz of St. Charles, Missouri.

U.S. Army

  • Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss of Corryton, Tennessee.

U.S. Navy

  • Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak of Berlin Heights, Ohio.
Updated: August 30, 2021 at 6:56 PM PDT
The story was updated to include Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola of Rancho Cucamonga.
Jonathan Linden was a reporter at 91.9 KVCR in San Bernardino, California. He joined KVCR in July 2021 and served with the station till October 2022.