“He's an Angel Up There”: Santee Parishioners Remember Pastor's Dead Son

Ryan Willweber, a 17-year-old West Hills High School student, died from injuries suffered in a crash in front of the campus on April 30, 2015

Dozens poured into an Allied Gardens Sunday for a prayer service at the church where the father of a teen killed in a tragic car crash is a pastor. 

On Thursday afternoon, 17-year-old Ryan Willweber and his brother, Cory, were involved in a deadly crash as they drove in front of their high school on Mast Boulevard in Santee. 

At the morning prayer service, parishioners at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church gathered to say their prayers during the service. Ryan's father Paul was present at the Mass but did not speak or give service. Ryan's father Paul later spoke with NBC7 about his son's death. 

After the service, family friends and parishioners remembered the young teen killed in the crash as a kind, giving young man with a bright future. 

“Wonderful kid, well behaved," said Natividad Worm, a parishioner. "Never did anything wrong. Always attending, always working, always helping other people.”

Worm used to babysit Willweber when he was younger and has been going to the church for more than 25 years. 

“He’s an angel up there," Worm said. "That’s the only reassurance and consolation that we get. That he went somewhere and he’s happy.”

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 another truck waiting to make a left-hand turn into the school.

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 Sunday, Ryan's name was brought up during the service as parishioners gathered together. 

Erika Wedt, a family friend, said Ryan mentored her kids and other youths at the church. 

“He’s a wonderful guy, a wonderful boy and we’re going to miss him a lot," Wedt said.

She said Ryan never lost patience with kids that could not or were not capable or doing things. 

"He helped me come to church today just so that I know that pastor would help us get through this too…he’s very strong,” Wedt said. 

She said Ryan was a giving teen and "gave from the heart, every day."

“He’s a wonderful guy, a wonderful boy and we’re going to miss him a lot,” Wedt said. 

After the service, Ryan's father stayed and hugged parishioners who offered words of comfort. 

“When people live long and they die, well you think, 'ok well, you know.' But he was just starting his life," said Worm. 

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.

Grief counselors were on-hand at West Hills High School Friday to help students cope with the tragedy. Students wore blue to school as a way of honoring Willweber.

Willweber’s brother, Cory, remains hospitalized with 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.

Santee Mayor Randy Voepel and San Diego County Sheriff's Department Capt. James Bovet held a media briefing Friday in front of the school and said Mast Boulevard is a safe street that is not prone to collisions. They said a traffic light is not currently needed at the site of the deadly crash.

However, NBC 7 Investigates obtained data that reveals at least five crashes have taken place in the area -- two with injuries.

Editor's Note: Officials have clarified that Willweber was attempting to make a left-hand turn out of the campus onto westbound Mast Boulevard, not onto 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," Sheriff's Capt. James Bovet said.

Contact Us