“I Know He's Going to See Me Again”: Grieving Santee Father Mourns Teen 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

A San Diego pastor and father is grieving the loss of his son, a 17-year-old student that died in a tragic crash outside his high school Thursday. 

"I am grieving, I am tremendously sad," said Paul Willweber. "I miss my son."

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. 

Ryan's father remembered his son his son as a very positive person, a "wonderful person" who "loved life."

"Obviously as a father I thought he was a great kid, but he was he was a great kid," Paul said. "He was a kind person, he loved to help other people; he would actually seek out ways to help people, and the amazing things people are saying about him, I’m just in awe. I kind of feel like, wow, I need to learn from him on how to live."

Paul, a pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, spoke to churchgoers as they poured into the building as again as they came out, speaking with and hugging grieving parishioners. He did not speak at the Mass this Sunday, but he sat and listened during the service. His son Ryan was mentioned during the service.

"We just have this knowledge and this confidence that this is not the end...God is going to get us through this," said Paul.

His other son, Cory, is going to heal fully, Paul said. His jaw is wired shut and will stay that way for six weeks, he said, which has made it difficult to grieve his brother because of the pain.

Cory is lucid, his father said, though he will now have to live with the fact that he lost his brother. Cory, remains hospitalized with broken bones to his shoulder and face, according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. His father said he should be out of the hospital within a few days. 

"I think he's doing well with it," Paul said of his son Cory, and the healing has been going well. 

"The one thing that has really gotten me through is knowing that Ryan is in heaven, I know he's in heaven, I know he's going to see me again..without that I don't know I honestly don't know what I would do...I really don't," said Paul.

Paul said he has had moments of grieving and moments when he has cried. When he first heard of the crash Thursday, it was when he was at lunch with his coworkers when his wife called him. 

"My initial thoughts were, 'Okay, let's stay calm, let's get to where we need to go'…so my initial thoughts were telling my wife…to stay calm," Paul said. "And then of course, just shaking, thinking, 'What's going to happen, Dear God, bless them, keep them in your prayers."

Being at the church Sunday morning helped him, he said, because of the "amazing, amazing support" from his family, Ryan's fellow students and parishioners. 

"They do not realize how much of a blessing this is, that they are reaching out to us and offering their support," Paul said. 

Churchgoers - many of whom were family friends and had known Ryan personally - grieved the loss of Ryan, remembering the extraordinary young man he was. When talking about him, they said he was "wonderful," a "well-behaved" young man, a "mentor to my kids," and a giving kid. 

"He's an angel up there," said Natividad Worm, a parishioner and Ryan's old babysitter. "That's the only reassurance and consolation that we get. That he went somewhere and he's happy."

One Thursday, when 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.

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.

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