Prayers and condolences, tears, confusion and grief marked the tragic death of V. Sue Cleveland High football player and runner Adrian Garcia on Thursday in a head-on collision near the school.
Garcia, 16, was killed when the Toyota Tercel he was driving on Paseo del Volcan crossed into oncoming traffic and slammed into a 2012 Toyota Tacoma truck about 7 a.m. – just before the start of the school day. The Tercel was mangled almost beyond recognition.
Garcia, a sophomore and the son of a Rio Rancho police officer, ran track for Cleveland and played wide receiver and cornerback on the junior varsity football team.
The Rio Rancho Police Department has set up an account at Wells Fargo bank to help the family pay for the cost of funeral services. A donation can be made to the Adrian Garcia Jr. Memorial Fund at any branch.
Students took to Twitter to express their feelings. Some questioned why someone so young had to die, while others offered prayers and condolences to the family. They also talked about teachers and students crying at school and hugging one another, while another group prayed during lunch. A makeshift memorial was set up along Paseo del Volcan with a teddy bear, candles, candy bars and flowers.
JV football coach Robert Garza said Garcia seemed quiet but had a playful “jokester” side to him that everyone liked.
“He was always laughing and smiling,” he said. “He was a pretty funny kid.”
Garza said some of the football players who had a second-period weight-lifting class with Garcia were crying. Many went home from school early, he said.
Kristenkatie Eccher, 15, also a sophomore, said in an online message to the Journal that Garcia was a sweet kid and a great athlete.
“At school he was known as ‘the guy that sells candy,’ ” she said. “He made so much money selling candy to kids at school. It’s really what made him known around school.”
Principal Scott Affentranger said Garcia was well-liked.
“We lost another member of the Storm family,” he said. “We are all very upset about it. My heart goes out to the family.”
Police spokesman Nicholas Onken said it’s too early in the investigation to know the cause of the crash or to even speculate why Garcia crossed into oncoming traffic.
The truck was driven by Beverly Maez, 36. Her 6-year-old daughter was a passenger. Both were transported to University of New Mexico Hospital with “non life-threatening injuries.” Everyone, according to police, appeared to be properly restrained.
Onken said the department has been deeply shaken by the incident, and all of them are suffering. He said it has drawn them all closer and they are “pulling together as a department.”
“As police officers, any time we deal with the loss of life of a child, it affects us,” he said. “… Whenever that incident involves the child of one of our own, it affects us that much more.”
Today is a scheduled district holiday, so students are not in school.
“There aren’t many words to describe what a great boy he was,” Eccher said. “Or words to describe how we all feel today. Just that he will be missed. His smile, personality, everything about him.”
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal