GLADEWATER — A 16-year-old Gladewater High School football player was killed and his brother was injured when their vehicle overturned near this city as they were en route to school Wednesday morning, Upshur County Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Rhonda Welch said.
Nikalas (Nik) Santos Reyes Wi-singer was apparently killed instant-
ly, while his brother, 18-year-old John Tristian Wisinger, was treated and released from Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview following the accident on Farm-to-Market Road 2685, Judge Welch said. She said she pronounced Nik Wisinger, a front-seat passenger in the vehicle, dead at the scene at 9:10 a.m.
John Tristian Wisinger was driving the southbound 1996 Jeep Cherokee Sport when it ran off the right side of the roadway, he overcorrected and the vehicle overturned several times near the intersection with Scarlet Oak Road, Judge Welch said. The crash occurred at 7:54 a.m., the Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Pam Edge said.
Both teens were wearing seat belts, Mrs. Edge said. The accident happened about two miles northwest of Gladewater, Judge Welch said.
The Department of Public Safety troopers who investigated the accident, Corporal Sandy Taylor and Trooper Billy Spears, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Nik Wisinger was a junior, while his brother is a senior at Gladewater High School, Gladewater ISD superintendent J.P. Richardson said. Richardson said he believed Nik played linebacker, and that John Tristian does not play football.
Richardson said the Gladewater Bears will play the Kilgore Bulldogs in Kilgore Friday night as scheduled as the Wisingers' mother wished. Meantime, a memorial fund has been set up for the family at Austin Bank in Gladewater, he said.
Gladewater High School Principal Cathy Bedair said Nic Wisinger "was always just so full of life and always had a smile on his face and just had fun."
The teen was "very intelligent, and made friends with everybody," she added. "Everybody just loved him. Didn't meet a stranger. (He was) very respectful, very well-behaved. Just (a) great young man."
Asked about the atmosphere at the high school Wednesday afternoon, Richardson told the Tyler Morning Telegraph, "Well, it's quiet. It's kind of (a) somber day today. Our kids are handling it, grieving, leaning on each other."
Grief counselors and youth ministers were at the school Wednesday, and "we've slowed things down today," but "we still need to stay in routine," Richardson said. "We feel that's important."
He also said the school had to give students and staff "time to grieve," and that counselors would be available the next two days. "We've just been monitoring the kids very closely," Richardson added.
Ms. Bedair said Richardson had described the atmosphere at the high school "perfectly," and she added, "You just go into mama mode, and you just want to make sure the kids are okay. And every adult here was in mom and dad mode today."
Richardson said high school students and staff members were called about 9 a.m. into the school auditorium, where head football Coach John Berry emotionally announced his player's death. The news drew a gasp from the audience of nearly 600, who "had no idea what they were doing in the auditorium," the superintendent said.
"I thought it was best that they all heard it at once," Richardson said, although it is a "big blow when you hear something of that nature at one time." The students were told to be thinking about the Wisinger family, and a student-led prayer was said before the assembly dismissed, said Richardson.
Counselors from all the school district's campuses, youth ministers and youth pastors were waiting for the students, who were told to take their time and remain in the auditorium if they needed to, the superintendent said. As the pupils exited, there were two tables where they could write notes to the Wisinger family, he added.
"We have a plan in place (for) any time (something like) this happens," the superintendent explained.
Richardson said he was meeting with school principals shortly before 8 a.m. when he received a call from emergency services concerning the accident. He said he was told he and the high school principal needed to come to the scene, and that the caller told him "it wasn't good."
He and Ms. Bedair rushed to the accident site, arriving before the youths' mother, Richardson said. Ms. Bedair drove the mother to Good Shepherd, following the ambulance which was hauling John Tristian, and the principal was at the hospital when the death was announced to the student body, the superintendent said.
After the assembly, Berry met with the varsity and junior varsity football teams and told them "let's talk about it," according to Richardson. The coach also told the players to "lean on each other" and that "your peers are going to need you," Richardson said.
He also said he had visited the Wisinger family at their home and told the family the school district would help if it could.
Ms. Bedair said high school students would gather in the gymnasium from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. today for a ceremony honoring Wisinger before they launch 68 balloons at Bear Stadium in his honor since he wore number 68 in football.
During the ceremony, a student will sing, friends of Wisinger will speak, poetry will be read, and the lights will be dimmed so students can light up their cell phones in a candelight-type effect, she said.
Richardson meantime said Gladewater ISD had received many "positive" messages from other school districts, and it was good to know people "are praying for you." He asked the public "continue to pray for our students and the faculty."