Hundreds, many dressed in Melba Mustang red, circled up, shoulder to shoulder, on the Melba High School football field Thursday night. Children, youth and adults held small white candles, shielding the flames from the chill.
The field was silent.
Melba residents are mourning the loss of one of their youth — an athlete, a graduate, a friend — who died in a crash Monday, May 14.
Nineteen-year-old Brian Reyes died at a local hospital after being ejected from a vehicle that crashed in the Snake River Canyon.
Reyes graduated from Melba High School in 2017. The 2018 Melba High School senior class organized a candlelight vigil to remember him.
“He was always smiling, always willing to be everyone’s friend,” said Michelle Martinez, whose sons were close friends with Reyes.
“The good die young,” Martinez said, “and (Brian) was good.”
The 2018 graduating class also donated its senior party money to the Reyes family. The money was initially raised for purchasing gifts to be given out at the senior party.
“(Reyes) was one of the best friends you could ask for,” said Scott Orr, a close friend. Orr and Reyes graduated together. “I’m going to miss him. He’s like family.”
Adelaide Astle, senior class president, said her mother, who helped organize the party, told the senior class they had a choice: they could either keep the money they raised for gifts, or they could donate it to the Reyes family. They chose to donate.
“They were heartbroken,” Chanall Astle said about her daughter’s classmates. “There is a lot of grief, mourning. Everyone (was) asking, ‘What can we do?’”
The 2018 graduating class found out Tuesday that Reyes died after the crash. The classmates voted unanimously to donate the money to Reyes’ family.
At the Thursday vigil, the senior class presented the Reyes family with a $2,000 check.
“When we thought about that, and what we would get with the money, we realized how much more we would get from donating the money,” Adelaide Astle said. “(That feeling) would last longer than the gifts.”
A FRIEND TO EVERYONE
Orr is one friend of a close group of five. Reyes, too, was one of the five.
“It’s kind of like something was taken from you,” Orr said. “You can’t feel it yet, but you know it’s gone.”
One of Orr’s favorite memories is simply the close friendship the group shared, just hanging out, having food and fun together.
“It’s hard to pick (just) one good time,” Orr said, thinking of Reyes. “Every time with a group of friends was a good time. There were so many good ones.”
The two other teens involved in the car crash are close friends of Orr’s, as well. Both survived the crash; the driver was treated for non-life-threatening injuries Monday. Reyes was not wearing a seat belt, according to the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office, and was ejected from the vehicle.
“I’m just glad it wasn’t all three of them,” Orr said. “Accidents happen.”
Martinez said she is proud of the youth for not assigning blame amid the crash. A group of youth went to visit the driver and the driver’s family after the crash.
“I think in times like this, people direct their anger, assign blame,” Martinez said, “but for these kids, they said, ‘It was an accident, and we love you.’”
‘REMEMBER HIM AS ALWAYS SMILING’
Reyes was known for his smile and his love of cake, several people said at the vigil. One friend remembered Reyes bringing a Cold Stone cake to the high school, then eating it in the hall with some of his friends.
Reyes was also remembered for his athleticism.
“He may not have been the fastest at the 100 meters,” former track coach Dave Mangum said, “but he was the fastest out of the starting block.”
Though Reyes was injured during a football game, it didn’t deter his love of sports.
“This summer he was working to pay for college, (but) he still found time to come to football, baseball games and tell the kids, ‘You’re doing a great job,’” Martinez said. “That he was willing to take that time … that’s pretty selfless.”
To close the vigil, a local parent presented a blanket to the Reyes family and invited everyone who was close to Reyes to put a handprint and signature on the blanket.
Reyes’s mother asked those attending the vigil to remember him as always smiling.
“He’s always going to be in my heart, in our group of friends,” Orr said. “I’m never going to forget him. I’m just glad we got to be friends, as close as we were.”