Grieving friends of one of the two young men killed in a boating accident in San Diego’s East County said the victim had a promising future and was taken far too soon.
Russell Mendez, a former Patrick Henry High School student, was one of the victims killed after two boats collided Thursday evening along the north arm of El Capitan Reservoir near the east shore.
Officials said a blue and white Nitro boat was traveling at a high rate of speed when it plowed into a smaller, stationary boat. The vessels both flipped over, throwing four people into the water.
The two occupants of the Nitro boat were pulled from the reservoir with minor cuts and bruises.
One of the men in the stationary boat died in the crash. The second occupant of that boat was found dead in the water hours later. The victims were 21 and 20 years old.
On Friday night, Mendez’s friends spoke briefly with NBC 7 about their devastating loss. Loved ones said Mendez was a star linebacker in high school and a very kind person.
Patrick Henry’s football team posted the following message on its website:
“It is with great sadness and sorrow that we say goodbye to a former Patriot. Russell Mendez, a former varsity Linebacker for Patrick Henry died yesterday in boating accident at El Capitan Reservoir. Our prayers and thoughts are with the family.”
Mendez’s former girlfriend called him “the best boyfriend anyone could ask for.”
Friends and former teammates also took to social media, including Twitter, to express their sorrow.
“It’s a sad day for everyone in San Diego,” tweeted one friend. “Rest in paradise Russell Mendez, you’ll be missed dearly.”
“RIP Russell Mendez. Taken too young,” said another online post.
Those who knew the victim said he was currently enrolled at Miramar College majoring in aerospace mechanics. He had high hopes for his future.
An online fund has been established for the victims to help their families cover memorial and funeral costs.
The boating accident remains under investigation.
Marine Safety Captain Nick Lerma with San Diego Lifeguards said he was not sure if the people involved were wearing safety vests. He also there is no speed limit along that particular stretch of the reservoir but the area was recently converted into a no wake zone due to the drop in water levels.