The sudden death of a former college and minor league baseball player killed in a horrific crash along State Route 125 in the South Bay early Friday has left his family grieving, in utter shock and sadness.
At around 1:45 a.m., Christian Franco, 37, was driving his Jaguar along the South Bay Expressway north of San Miguel Road when he plowed into a guard rail. The impact tore open the left side of the car and Franco was ejected from his vehicle, California Highway Patrol officials said.
Franco died on scene.
On Friday night – still reeling from the sudden tragedy – Franco’s family spoke with NBC 7, saying they are completely heartbroken over the loss of someone so unforgettable.
The family described their loved on as full of life and someone who was loved by all.
“Christian was the best person I met in my entire life,” said girlfriend Gabriela Novelo. “He didn’t live life, life lived him. That’s how amazing his personality was. He had so much to give; had such a great heart.”
Franco was also an accomplished baseball player. He graduated from Sweetwater High School where he was a baseball standout -- but his time in the field did not end there.
“He was a really good batter and outfielder,” remembered Franco’s younger sister, Luisana Herrera. “He was really known for that.”
Franco went to California State University, Chico and was an outfielder on university’s 1999 National Championship team. He then went on to play in the minor league, his girlfriend and sister said.
On Friday night, a tribute to him was posted on the Chico State Baseball Facebook page calling Franco a “loyal friend and teammate.”
“He will be great missed,” the post read, in part. “We send out heartfelt condolences to his family. We love you Chris and will miss you terribly.”
A later post on the Facebook page said a moment of silence was held for Franco during Chico State’s baseball game Friday night at UC San Diego.
Franco had just celebrated his 37th birthday Tuesday with his girlfriend and family. Herrera said he leaves behind his parents, four siblings and many aunts, uncles and cousins.
Herrera said their large family will always remember him and have vowed to carry on his fun-loving spirit.
“He was always very loving, caring, kind, positive – just a very happy person,” she said. “He just touched so many hearts. He will forever be alive in our hearts. He will never be forgotten, never.”
Though details of a memorial service for Franco have not yet been finalized, Novelo and Herrera said loved ones plan to have a fundraiser in his honor soon.
For now, the CHP said the fatal accident remains under investigation.
Officials believe Franco may have been traveling at a high-rate of speed just before the collision. His Jaguar was also struck by two Hondas and a Hummer. No one in those vehicles was injured, but the driver of the Hummer was arrested on suspicion of DUI at the scene.