Paying tribute to Merced College student killed in crash

FRESNO, Calif.

Friends say Garrett Smith-Fuentz had a bright future ahead. He was going to college, working, and had a passion for music. But all of that all changed in an instant.

The crumbled wall of a house marks the spot where Garrett Smith-Fuentz died in a car crash early Tuesday morning.

"It's tough to lose a family member," said Garrett's cousin, Mike Coates. "Your own flesh and blood's now gone. Nothing can replace that, nothing."

Coates drove from Las Vegas to be with his family after hearing the tragic news. He and several of Garrett's friends also visited a memorial of candles and flowers at the crash site.

"He was an amazing person. He had charisma and style," said Garrett's friend, William Mattos. "It's such a tragedy that he died at this place at such a young age, but he will be remembered."

Garrett's Facebook page is filled with posts from those who knew and loved him. The Merced High graduate was studying accounting at Merced College. He also worked at Walmart.

"I grew up with him. He was my best friend since 5th grade," said Garrett's friend, Dylan Mitchell. "We did everything together. He was just an all-around great person."

Merced Police say Garrett was starting to cross M Street when his car collided with a pick-up truck driven by 18-year-old Zachary Lemas. Investigators believe the teen was speeding at the time. The impact knocked Garrett's car into a light pole and then into a house. The broken light pole punctured the roof, but no one inside the home was hurt. The other driver and a 17-year-old passenger had only minor injuries. Garrett died at the scene.

Dylan Mitchell said, "It's just a bad dream, I'm still trying to wake up from this."

Dozens of people gathered for a candlelight vigil at the crash site Tuesday night, just one of many displays of support Garrett's family members are thankful for as they face the painful task of planning his funeral.

Garrett's memorial service will take place Friday at 1:00pm at Yosemite Church in Merced. A special ceremony to celebrate Garrett's life is also scheduled for Thursday at 4:00pm at Merced High School.

Meanwhile, police are still investigating the crash and have not yet said if the other driver involved may face charges.

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