Los Banos community gathers to remember Jayden Thomas

November 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Hundreds of people pack a north valley stadium Sunday night to remember a 10-year-old football player killed in a car crash.

Friends say Jayden Thomas and his family were nearly home from a pee wee football play-off game in Manteca when the accident happened Saturday night in Los Banos. Jayden died at the scene. His parents and two-year-old and eight-year-old sisters were injured.

Police say Justin Nappi was driving under the influence when his truck collided with the Thomas' car. The 20-year-old is now in jail on multiple charges, including felony hit and run and gross vehicular manslaughter.

Jayden Thomas played on the Los Banos Wildcats youth football team. Sunday, just hours after the community found out about his death, they held a car wash, raising more than $4-thousand for his family.

Saturday night, family and friends filled more than half the stadium at Pacheco High School.

About 500 people packed into the bleachers.

"Jayden is basically a great kid, you know. He loved to have fun," said Jayden's uncle Julio Inguanzo.

The fun-loving 10-year-old was killed at an intersection after Los Banos police say 20-year-old Justin Nappi slammed his pick up truck into the Thomas' family car.

"This little boy touched so many lives. You can see today. He was going to conquer the world. Unfortunately because of a drunk driver he's not here to do that," said Jayen's grandmother Viola Inguanzo.

Viola said she's beyond angry. She says she's hurt and outraged because Jayden's death could have been prevented. "It's so important for you to take the keys from a friend, family members, whoever's drinking. Because look at us today."

Jayden's father said a few words to the hundreds who are sharing in his grief. His coaches say he was a star on the football field.

"Watching him play sports was like watching a professional in the making," said coach Steven Munoz, "It has a devastating effect, but it also has a positive effect. It shows that we are one community, one family."

Jayden was the oldest of the grand kids in his family -- a young role model in school, in pads, and at home.

"We were walking with an angel for 10 years, and now he's gone," said Jayen's great uncle Frank Zepeda.

Dozens of Jayden's teammates and friends gathered on the football field for one last cheer. "These boys aren't going to have their teammate. He was supposed to play in the all-star game next week," said Viola.

Jayden's youngest sister, a two-year-old, was still in the hospital Sunday night for observations. As for the accident investigation, police are not releasing many details. They did say suspect Justin Nappi was in jail Sunday night. His bail is set at $310,000.

This is the second time in less than two months a pee wee football player has died in a car accident. Even Perez, 10, from Avenal was on his way to a football game in Los Banos with his family and other players when their SUV had a tire blow-out and crashed near Coalinga.


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