Even before the Tuesday morning assembly at Tomales High School, nearly everyone already knew.
A day earlier, 2017 graduate Ricardo “Ricky” De Santiago, a popular and athletic soccer and basketball star with an ear-to-ear grin, had died in a crash police suspect involved drunken driving.
De Santiago, 18, died in a head-on collision that closed Highway 1 south of the bayside Marin County town of Marshall for five hours, the CHP said.
De Santiago was the passenger in a Honda Prelude being driven south by his friend Lucas McFadden, 23, just after 4:30 p.m. when the car drifted into the opposite lane on a left curve, the CHP said. McFadden tried to correct his position, but ended up in the path of an oncoming Peterbilt dump truck towing an excavator, the CHP said.
De Santiago was pronounced dead at the scene. McFadden, who police determined was intoxicated at the time of the crash, suffered major injuries and remained hospitalized Tuesday. The truck driver, Kevin Furlong, 54, was uninjured.
The tightknit Tomales High School campus mourned Tuesday as news of De Santiago’s death was announced in an early morning assembly in the gym where he played so many basketball games as a point guard for the Braves.
Most of the students already knew — Tomales is a small town, and the high school is just as small with an enrollment of 145 this year, said Principal Adam Jennings.
“People have been reflective,” Jennings said. “People have been sad. We’ve tried to really focus on maintaining as much normalcy as we can, but still giving kids and staff the opportunity to process and grieve. It’s been a lot of reminding ourselves of all the things we loved about him.”
Maintaining normalcy meant not canceling Tuesday night’s home basketball games against St. Vincent de Paul High School, but instead playing them in De Santiago’s honor.
“The idea is, that’s what Ricky would have wanted to do. He wouldn’t have wanted us to stop,” said athletic director Dominic Sacheli, who has known De Santiago since the third grade, and spent the past three years teaching him math.
Before the boys’ varsity game Tuesday night, Sacheli said a few words about him. A moment of silence followed.
“He was definitely the type of kid that was hard to get mad at,” Sacheli said. “He wasn’t like the best student, and he could be a little bit social but he had this smile, like this ear-to-ear grin, and he was smart.
“So he could make you laugh a little bit, and any time you’d try to get on him for anything, he’d flash that smile at me, and you couldn’t really do much after that.”
Sacheli also knows McFadden, the driver.
“Those two families are pretty tight,” Sacheli said. “Luke was a great kid, too. ... It’s a tough one.”
You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeaWarren. You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or email@example.com. On Twitter@rossmannreport.