Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to westbound I-40 near the Tijeras exit around 6:30 a.m. for a crash between a car and a semi-trailer. Authorities closed westbound lanes of traffic all morning while they investigated.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Aaron Williamson said a passenger car and a semi-trailer that were both driving on westbound I-40 collided with one another at a curve, and the passenger car got trapped underneath the semi.
The semi dragged the car for a quarter mile, and when authorities arrived, the truck was on fire. The driver of the passenger car, whom school officials identified as Hein, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.
Community members apparently learned of Hein’s death later that afternoon. The football team held a moment of silence for Hein before Manzano’s home game Friday evening.
“He was an active student at school who will be deeply missed,” said Albuquerque Public Schools spokeswoman Monica Armenta Monday. “It’s a reminder that life is precious. It’s always so much more difficult when it’s a young person.”
She said counselors at the high school can help grieving students in the coming days.
A woman named Vicki Wilmarth wrote in a social media post that Hein’s mom had posted on Facebook early Friday morning saying her son hadn’t made it to school, and asked if anyone knew the color of the car involved in the crash.
She later found out her son was in the crash.
“This is just a stark reminder that we never know when the last time might be that we see those we love,” Wilmarth wrote. “Always hug, always affirm, always say you love them.”
Wilmarth said Hein’s mom posted that Hein was in cub scouts and volunteered at a library and a church.
“We are numb and heartbroken from this tragic loss of my beautiful son Riley Hein,” the mom posted, according to Wilmarth. “There aren’t enough words to describe what a talented and special young man he was with so much potential. Tell your kids you love them daily.”
It’s the third time tragedy has struck the Manzano community in the past six months.
Footballer and wrestler Jaydon Chavez-Silver was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in late June, shocking his friends and the school. Then in August, assistant principal James Chacho was shot and critically injured by a man who later committed suicide. Chacho survived.
“It’s been an excruciating year for Manzano High School,” Armenta said. “The loss is felt deeply.”