Students at West Hills High School in Santee are mourning the sudden loss of their peer killed in a car accident who was known as a kind, studious young man devoted to the school’s track team.
On Thursday afternoon, student Ryan Willweber, 17, and his brother, Cory, were involved in a deadly crash as they drove near their high school on Mast Boulevard.
As the teens’ sedan tried to make a left-hand turn out of the campus, a gold Ford Explorer T-boned the car, officials said. The Explorer and sedan collided with such force the sedan then backed into a truck waiting to make a left-hand turn onto the campus.
The brothers inside the sedan had to be cut from their crushed vehicle by fire crews. Willweber was critically injured and was airlifted to a local hospital. Sadly, he died shortly thereafter.
On Thursday night, dozens upon dozens of students piled into West Hills High School and held a tearful candlelight vigil in remembrance of Willweber. After the vigil, his peers gathered around the school’s track to watch the track team run in Willweber’s honor.
The student was a standout athlete and ran track for the West Hills Wolf Pack.
"I'm pretty sure he had a bright future ahead of him,” said student Marco Ovies. "The way he affected so many lives, it's like all the people who came out here. I'm sure some of them didn't even know who he was or never saw him. You can just tell he touched a lot of people.”
Students had many positive memories of Willweber.
"[He was] a good friend, very studious, very caring to all his teammates and anyone that he has ever known,” one student told NBC 7. "Always had a smile on his face, he was always excited to go
The sudden loss hit students hard, especially because many students witnessed the crash or saw Willweber right before it happened.
"Sad, it's just like a tragic loss and you just have to be thankful because it happens in the blink of an eye and you don't know when it could happen,” said one peer.
The vigil brought peace to those who loved Willweber, but the teen's death brings much pain to the Wolf Pack.
"I think it's really touching and it really makes you feel good that people can come together as a community when there's something really tragic that happens,” another student told NBC 7.
School officials said grief counselors will be on-hand at West Hills High School Friday to help students cope with the tragedy. Students planned to wear blue to school as a way of honoring Willweber.
Willweber’s brother, Cory, survived the crash but was hospitalized for broken bones to his shoulder and face, according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
The two others involved in the crash – the driver of the Explorer and the driver of the truck – sustained minor injuries.
The fatal accident remains under investigation.
The mayor of Santee, Randy Voepel, is scheduled to hold a media briefing near the entrance to West Hills High School Friday at 11 a.m. to discuss the accident. Sheriff's deputies will also be there to answer questions about the crash. This briefing will be streamed live above.
Editor's Note: Officials have clarified that Willweber's vehicle was making a turn out of the campus at the time of the crash onto westbound Mast Boulevard, not onto the campus. "It is legal to make a left turn from the campus where Ryan made his turn. There is no median there to allow for left turns from the campus," said Sheriff's Capt. James Bovet.