SANGER – Sanger High School’s soccer program is mourning the loss of a former player who was killed in a vehicle accident on Highway 180 north of the city.
Uriel Velasquez, 17, died in a solo accident just east of the highway and McCall Avenue in the early morning hours of Aug. 19. According to the California Highway Patrol, the car he was driving east on 180 just after 2:40 a.m. drifted off the roadway just past the intersection, struck a pole and ejected him. Less than three months ago, Velasquez had graduated with the school’s Class of 2023.
“The past 24 hours have been incredibly difficult for us as a soccer family,” a social media statement from the SHS soccer program stated the day following the crash. “Uri was special. He had an ability to connect with anybody he met with and he commanded so much respect from all of us on the team. He was a hard worker, an amazing friend, teammate and was incredibly selfless.”
A growing memorial including candles, flowers, balloons and soccer balls were set up at a dirt area just east of the accident site south of the highway. The tributes remembered Velasquez, who was a member of Sanger High’s 2021 Central Section champions and shared goalkeeping duties with teammate Julian Mejia during his career.
The Apaches captured three County Metro Athletic Conference titles in that period, and won the Division II section crown in 2021 while placing second in Division I in 2022.
The soccer team statement said that Velasquez always looked out for others before himself.
“He would go from a full day of school to a grueling practice then straight to work and repeat the cycle the next day,” the statement said. “As coaches, we knew how much he had on his plate but he never asked us to take it easier on him. He continued to show up each day, worked to earn his spot on the team, pushed his teammates to be better, but still actively looked to be a positive energy around everybody on the team.”
Uriel’s family also mourned his death in an online post.
“Our beloved, Uriel has left us too soon and we are struggling to come to terms with the devastating news,” his family said in a statement on social media. “The sudden loss of our dear Uriel has left a huge hole in our hearts. Uriel was kind, funny, giving, driven, talented, loved and our cherished goalkeeper. A life so beautifully lived should and will be beautifully remembered.”
The GoFundMe page has been set up by the family to help cover expenses for Uriel’s funeral. Anyone wishing to make a donation can go online to the site at gofundme.com/f/uris-funeral-expenses.