West senior dies in head-on crash on U.S. 87

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

June 19, 2012 at 1:19 a.m.
Updated June 20, 2012 at 1:20 a.m.

For two inseparable West High School seniors, driving into Victoria on a rainy afternoon changed everything.

Mario Garcia, 17, lost control of a red Camaro on Tuesday about noon on U.S. Highway 87 North. He skidded into oncoming traffic, hitting a Chevrolet Tahoe, said Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Lt. Glen Garrett.

Garcia was transported to DeTar Hospital Navarro, where he was in guarded condition in the intensive care unit, according to hospital staff. His passenger in the car, Jacob Guzman, 18, of Victoria, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the Tahoe, Carl Bradburn, 54, of Victoria, was transported to Citizens Medical Center, where he was treated and released, said a spokesperson for the hospital.

Both Garcia and Guzman played on the West High School junior varsity basketball team last year.

Guzman, a point guard, hoped to make the varsity team going into his senior year.

"He wasn't the biggest kid out there, but he had a huge heart," said Pat Erskine, head boys basketball coach at West High School. "He was just one of those kids that he touched a lot of kids around him."

Erskine said the boys leaned on each other during tough times.

"I know Mario and Mario's dad were always there for Guzman," Erskine said. "They were two that lately were just inseparable. They were always together."

John Nelson, a 17-year-old senior at West, met Guzman in the sixth grade.

Nelson said the three of them - Garcia, Guzman and Nelson - were best friends, like brothers. Sharing a love for basketball, they played often. Nelson and Guzman last played basketball together about two weeks ago, one-on-one.

"It only takes one conversation, just a couple words from him, or just to see him smile to make you fall in love with a person like him," said Nelson.

Guzman's goal was to be the first person in his family to finish college, Erskine said.

"He was just one of those kids that, you knew, it may not have happened right away, but he was going to continue to try, no matter what," said Erskine.

For Bianca Rubio, a 15-year-old at East High School, Guzman was her first kiss. She said she wouldn't have had it any other way. The two dated for a little more than a year in middle school and he made the first move.

"He loved his mom and his little brothers," Rubio said. "He always talked about how he wanted to do things ... go to college, to the NBA, so he could do things for them."

Erskine said Guzman will be greatly missed by the coaching staff and students at West.

"Obviously, this is something that we will all take one step back as a family, the Warrior athletic family, and realize that we lost a great young man," Erskine said. "And we certainly are praying for Mario and his recovery. It is going to be a tough road, and we will be there for what is next."



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