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Moreno Valley honors family killed in crash

February 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
With candles, flowers and tears, Moreno Valley residents gathered at a vigil to remember coach Ryan Villalpando, his wife and two young children who were killed in a fiery crash on Interstate 15 in Ontario Saturday.There was no school Monday, but that didn't stop teachers and students and friends of the victim from stopping by and paying their respects at a memorial in front of the school.

"The support has just been tremendous. I'm crying, but you don't see the tears, because I'm dried out, but yes I just think everybody remembers who my son was as Ryan Villalpando but we called him Rhino," said Edward Villalpando, Ryan's father.

Ryan's nickname was "Rhino." Ryan Villalpando along with his two children, Mateo and Bella Rose, were all killed in the wreck on Interstate 15 on Saturday afternoon.

"Here I am crying like a baby, but what are you going to do? I'm not even close to saying who is at fault, what happened, how it happened. I'm not escalating anything. I'm not trying to challenge anything. I'm not trying to over dramatize it. I'm just trying to say that it's something that happened and we're going to have to move forward," said Edward.

Villalpando coached at Moreno Valley High for 10 years. He left a few years ago but came back because he felt he needed to be there.

"He would say, 'I'm gone, don't forget me, remember me for who I am, what I stood for and let's go forward,'" said Edward.

Villalpando's sister, Erikka, says she had no doubt her brother and his family are all watching them now.

"He was the best big brother anybody could have. He has no idea how much he has meant to me. My family, it sounds cliche and cheesy, but they were a perfect family," Erikka said.

A vigil was held at Moreno Valley High School Monday night for Villalpando. More than 2,000 people turned out to remember Ryan Villalpando -- a coach, a mentor and a friend to many -- and his family.

Students, faculty and friends remembered the man they called "Coach V."

"Coach V is just one of those people that people gravitate toward," said one speaker.

"He was just a big happy-go-lucky guy," said Ray Burns, Moreno Valley High Dean of Students. "He was very friendly, and his life was an open book. He brought his wife and his two kids to all the games. He was just part of the family here in Moreno Valley."

"They complemented each other, so ... You've got to give a pat on the back to my lovely daughter-in-law, Veronica, and their two children -- it was just tremendous. I mean, it was God's gift to us," said Ryan's father Edward.

Football players past and present turned out to pay tribute to the man who has impacted their lives. Some who have gone on to play at the college level say they could not have done it without Coach V's motivation.

"Coach V is the reason why I'm there," said Cameron Henderson, a Fresno State University football player. "He gave me that drive to get to where I wanted to be. And this is where I want to be right now."

"He always gave me inspiration and gave me reasons why I know why I can do it," said Fresno State player Jonathan Norton.

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