Friends, school rally after senior's death
More than 150 students said their early goodbyes to a friend and classmate at an impromptu candlelight vigil at Colusa High School late Friday night.
The students, and about 50 adults, gathered and listened to the school’s counselor and then consoled each other over the loss.
Jordan Richard Lewis Hillis, 17, died in a violent single-vehicle rollover accident several hours earlier as he and a passenger were heading to a football game between Hillis’s beloved RedHawks and the host Pierce High Bears in Arbuckle.
“It is very sad, and my thoughts go out to the family,” said Colusa Unified School District Superintendent Dwayne Newman. It is his first year at the district.
He thought Friday night’s gathering was a positive experience.
“It was really good for the kids to be able to help each other and for the adults to make sure everyone was OK,” Newman said.
Darren Brown, the first-year principal at Colusa High, said Hillis was the first student to welcome him to the campus.
“The first day he walked in and knocked on the door. He came in and said, ‘hello, Mr. Brown, my name is Jordan Hillis,’” Brown said.
“And we have exchanged pleasantries every day.”
Players from both sides gathered in prayer after the game in Arbuckle, and word of the tragedy spread to other football venues in the valley, where condolences also were expressed.
The affection and pride for Hillis has poured out on his own Facebook page, and on one the school recently established.
The sympathies for family and friends also have been expressed on the Sun-Herald website.
“Jordan Richard Hillis -- I love you and always will. I will never forget you my amazing cousin. You left a legacy in this family. Holidays will never be the same. I love you boo.”
“Wow jordan, it was way to soon, we love you man. Much love and repect to your family. I still have a hard time beliving it. Were gnna keep your spirt alive nd keep that whiteboyswag. Rest In Paradise my dude Jordan Hillis aka jwow aka jweezy aka whiteboywitswag ... #Infinite Love R.I.P.”
Brown said Hillis had a smile that could “light up two rooms.”
Hillis, a senior, was driving a 1987 Ford Explorer south on Lonestar Road, had just passed another vehicle, and as he returned to the southbound lane, allowed the SUV to drift onto the shoulder, the California Highway Patrol reported.
Hillis overcorrected in returning to the roadway and the Explorer rolled several times across both lanes before coming to a rest on its wheels in an irrigation ditch about 10 feet off the northbound lane, north of Ware Road, the CHP said.
The accident occurred about 5:20 p.m.
Hillis was pronounced dead at the scene by an off-duty Enloe Medical Center medic. His passenger, Kyle Stacey, 16, also a Colusa High student, was airflighted to the Chico hospital.
His condition was no immediately available Saturday.
The CHP did not have any new information on its investigation to release on Saturday.
An autopsy is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
School officials plan to have counselors at the campus this coming week, as well as standby substitute teachers to help staff get through the tragedy.
“You never know what will trigger a memory,” Newman said.
Information will be sent home with the students to help parents get their children through this situation.
Preliminary discussions about a memorial service have started, but no firm date or location has been set.
In the meantime, the school will place a large banner in the quad for the students to express their feelings, and the school is considering retiring his basketball jersey number.
“We will have a large poster that will be in the quad area and students will have the chance to post photographs of Jordan and write anything they want,” Brown said. “Then we plan to give that to his parents at the end of the week.”
Hillis, who worked at Steelhead Lodge, is survived by his mother and stepfather, Sara and John Barron, a brother, John Barron, and a sister, Courtney Lewis.
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