Daniel James Perez, a 16-year-old San Marcos High School student, died Wednesday night after his vehicle headed south on northbound Highway 101 and collided with a semi-truck. Perez’s white 2003 Ford Mustang drove onto the freeway from the northbound 101 off-ramp at State Route 150 (aka Rincon Road) and hit the left front of a Volvo 3XL semi-truck-trailer. The Mustang rolled onto its roof; the teen was pronounced dead at the scene.
California Highway Patrol officers responded to the accident along with Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s deputies and Fire Department personnel. Authorities shut down that portion of northbound Highway 101 for many hours to clean up and investigate the incident. According to the CHP, it remains unclear if alcohol or other substances played a role.
“The Santa Barbara Unified School District mourns the loss of 16-year-old Daniel Perez, who died in an auto accident last night on Highway 101 near Bates Road,” district spokesperson Barbara Keyani said in a statement.
On Thursday afternoon, Perez’s teachers issued statements on their former student.
Kimberly Tilton, chemistry teacher: “I can still see Dan laughing at one of my corny jokes from the back corner of my class. It’s hard to accept that I won’t be celebrating his walk across the graduation stage. He was a truly exceptional young man and had all the potential to become a scientist. It was a true pleasure getting to know him. My heart goes out to all of his family and friends for their terrible loss.”
Annette Holdman, Spanish teacher: “I think it was the name Daniel that threw me off this morning. I had Dan in class twice and really enjoyed him. He was friendly and had a great sense of humor. We talked about baseball a lot. I’m just heartbroken over this news and I know a lot of kids will be also.”
Sergio Castallanos, baseball coach (freshmen team): “Danny Perez was an awesome individual. From a coach’s point of view he was willing to do whatever it took to help his team. When other players were injured he was pivotal in playing four different positions: left field, center field, third base, and shortshop. He did an exceptional job. Also, Danny was always upbeat and positive, he got along well with all of his teammates, and everyone admired him and loved him for the person that he was.”