Amine Britel visited Youssef Choukri, his best friend, in a dream a few nights ago.
“He said, ‘Don’t worry about me. I’m doing fine,’ ” recalled Choukri, who was called Brother Youssef by Britel, a testament to their closeness.
“It gave me a lot of comfort,” he said.
Seeking to comfort a distraught friend—or anyone, for that matter—was characteristic of Britel, say those who knew him.
“He was very loving and generous,” Choukri said.
Britel, 41, who lived in Newport Coast, was struck by a car Feb. 21 while riding his bike on San Joaquin Hills Road near Spy Glass Hill Road. Despite resuscitation attempts by paramedics, Britel died at the scene.
“I was shocked,” Britel’s former girlfriend Jessica Robertson said of hearing the news of his death. “I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t think it was real.”
The driver, a 22-year-old woman, was arrested on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while under the influence.
Britel, known to many in the U.S. as Adam, was born in Morocco in 1969. His life is a record of achievement: success in athletics (an accomplished triathlete and one-time Olympic contender, Britel was always training for the next event, friends say), a degree from UC Berkeley, a Harvard MBA, fluency in three languages.
“Whatever he did, he did the best,” Choukri said.
But people who knew Britel don’t simply recite from the list of his accomplishments when talking about their friend. They talk more about who he was than what he did.
“He had such a big heart. He was one of those genuinely kind people who never said anything negative,” Robertson said. “He was a kind soul and a man of wisdom.”
They talk about his love for family—for his mother, still in Morocco, and two older sisters. They recall his love of travel and adventure and respect for other cultures. They talk about his passion for his native land (Britel hosted a group of Harvard classmates in Morocco, laying the foundation for the travel business he ran from Newport Beach).
“He was always talking about where to go for the next trip,” Robertson said.
And they tell about how he thought Newport Beach was an ideal place to live—running at Crystal Cove State Park, cycling to the Back Bay, eating at Brasserie Pascal, Bandera and Benihana.
“He really loved to be fit ... to work out and enjoy life,” Choukri said.
Britel is back in Morocco, buried near the grave of his father.
“The circumstances of Amine’s death are incredibly sad, and we are all still reeling from it,” said Leila Belkora, Britel’s second cousin.
The woman arrested in connection with Britel’s death, , was released on bail soon after the accident, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department. The case has not yet been submitted to the Orange County district attorney’s office, a spokeswoman with the office said Monday.
“It’s so frustrating and sad. I feel like she lost her life, too,” Robertson said of Miller. “It’s so tragic.”