Mayor, Sheriff's Capt. Say Site of Deadly Student Crash is Safe

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

The mayor of Santee and a sheriff’s department captain said the intersection in front of West Hills High School where a student was killed in a crash Thursday is considered "safe."

“At this intersection over the last 10 years, we’ve had one minor accident – a left-hand turn by a student going into the high school,” Santee Mayor Randy Voepel said at a media briefing Friday in front of campus. “There is no traffic light here because, traditionally, there are no accidents here.”

“It is a safe road for collisions,” added San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Capt. James Bovet.

“This is a safe intersection. It has been for the past 10 years.”

The mayor and captain were referring to Mast Boulevard, which runs along West Hills High School in Santee.

On Thursday afternoon, student Ryan Willweber, 17, and his brother, Cory, were involved in a deadly crash as they drove onto westbound Mast Boulevard on their way out of West Hills High School.

As the teens’ sedan tried to make a left-hand turn out of campus, a gold Ford Explorer traveling eastbound on Mast Boulevard T-boned the car, officials said. The Explorer and sedan collided with such force, the sedan backed into another truck waiting to make a lefthand turn onto 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.

Following the accident, many parents and students expressed concerns over the entrance into the school, saying a traffic light is needed in the area.

However, Capt. Bovet believes this is not the case. Still, he said the intersection will be evaluated to determine whether traffic safety improvements are needed.

“Collisions really aren’t a factor on this stretch,” said Capt. Bovet. “But we will be working with a traffic engineer from the city to look and see if there are any other measures we can take because obviously this is very serious.”

According to Voepel, there are few accidents along Mast Boulevard despite the fact that it’s heavily traveled.

The mayor said the street was “evaluated intensely in 2003,” and has been reevaluated every year since then. He too said the road would be looked at once again for safety flaws following this
deadly crash.

Capt. Bovet said the current speed limit on Mast Boulevard is 40 mph and 25 mph when kids are present near the school.

While deputies do not handle many accidents on Mast Boulevard, Capt. Bovet said deputies do conduct daily speed and traffic enforcement on the road and issue citations as needed.

“Our radar enforcement is really the whole length of Mast Boulevard. Frankly, we have more speed on the east end than we do on the west end. It’s rare that we write tickets for very high speed on this road but we do tend to write people up for just over the speed limit,” he explained.

The crash that took Willweber’s life is under investigation.

Capt. Bovet said it does not appear the teenager was distracted behind the wheel. He was not texting or using his phone at the time of the crash, the captain confirmed.

Both Capt. Bovet and Voepel said the loss of the young student is a tragedy.

“Certainly the whole community is in mourning right now,”added Capt. Bovet.

Grief counselors were on site Friday at West Hills High School to help students cope with their peer’s death.

On Thursday night, students, teachers and parents packed into the school for an emotional candlelight vigil for Willweber.

Capt. Bovet said the others injured in the crash were doing better Friday, including Willweber’s brother, Cory, who was a passenger in the sedan at the time of the collision.

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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