Friends of Colby Shane Waters-Jackson, 17, spent Friday morning struggling to understand the factors that led to the deadly crash that took their friend's life.
They know the North Albany youth and his friend Justin Neal-Gage Moller, 19, had been joyriding in Waters-Jackson's 1993 Jeep Wrangler. They know the Jeep left the road, skidded down a sidewalk and over a small tree, crashing into a brick column and throwing both occupants out before coming to rest on a metal fence.
They know that, according to police, neither was wearing a seatbelt and that speed and alcohol were contributing factors.
None of that comes close to answering the question of how their fun-loving, big-hearted friend could simply not be coming home.
Waters-Jackson, of North Albany, was killed in a single-vehicle wreck about 2:52 a.m. Friday in the 1900 block of Cascade Heights Drive Nprthwest.
Moller was transported to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center with “multiple injuries,” according to Albany Police Department spokesman Capt. Brad Liles.
Both were thrown from the vehicle, which has a convertible roof. Waters-Jackson was pronounced dead at the scene.
“We have yet to determine who was driving the vehicle,” Liles said.
The intersection of Cascade Heights and Horseshoe Lake Circle was closed for four hours.
Neighbors Sharon and Scott Pierson and their son Colten, 21, heard the crash. Scott had just gotten up to let the family dog out and came running, with Colten, to see what happened.
Sharon, who had been asleep, heard the dog barking furiously and went to join them. She saw the two youths lying prone on the sidewalk on the east side of Cascade Heights and the Jeep, engine still running, propped awkwardly on a collapsed metal fence. Glass was everywhere.
Her husband was already trying to help Moller, she said. "He was holding his hand, talking to him, just saying, 'You're OK, you're OK,'" she recalled.
Colten, who was checking on Waters-Jackson, had his cellphone out. He shook his head at his mother and tossed her the phone. "Talk to dispatch," she remembers him saying as he moved the body face upright and followed the dispatcher's directions to do chest compressions.
Sharon said she knew the boy was gone, but she stayed on the phone with emergency dispatchers and directed a neighborhood doctor who joined the scene to take over for Colten. Then the paramedics arrived to treat Moller, who was conscious. "Call my mom," she remembers him telling them.
Sharon said she came back to the scene a few hours later, when friends of the youths began to arrive. She hadn't known either young man, she said, but it was obvious many others had. People bringing flowers started arriving almost immediately.
"He's had about 50 friends here, girls, guys, coming all day," she said. "I'm letting the kids know we are supporting them any way we can. It's just nice to see the outpouring of love those kids have shown."
Waters-Jackson grew up in the mid-valley, going to Santiam Christian and North Albany Middle schools before moving on to West Albany High School.
He had been a junior at West until about three months ago; a wide receiver on the Bulldog football team and a catcher for baseball. He enrolled at the alternative Albany Options School about three months ago with the intent to work his way back to West.
AOS Principal John Hunter said Waters-Jackson became part of his school almost immediately.
"He did a super job with us the last almost 12 weeks. He was doing everything he needed to do," he said. “Big heart and charismatic and loved by a lot of people. ... He had a good spirit to him. Kind to everyone that I ever saw him interact with. To say the least, it’s been rough."
Friends who gathered at the scene Friday said Waters-Jackson wasn't a big fan of school, but loved sports and hanging out with his friends. He'd received the Jeep from his grandparents when he was 16, they said, and he loved to drive it everywhere: friends' homes, Foster Reservoir for bonfires, and even into the occasional backyard.
"There's no place in Albany, anywhere around here, that that Jeep has not gone to," close friend Deyvid Rodriguez recalled.
Waters-Jackson, too, went everywhere, and collected friends all along the way. Rodriguez said he'd known of him through school, but thinks they became good friends only after Waters-Jackson "just showed up at my house one day. Then he showed up more and more, and then we just got really close."
Waters-Jackson was generous, Jon Koltvedt remembered: If you needed something, he'd give it to you.
"Kid had a big heart," agreed Myles Westburg. "Not selfish at all."
"Life of the party," Cam Sanders added. "Funniest guy I know."
"He was a great kid," Rodriguez summarized. "That's why we're all so devastated."
Sharon Pierson said it's been hard watching the students mourn. She stayed near the scene, she said, to give "Mom hugs" and talk to anyone who wished.
"What a tragedy," she said. "Just a kid doing silly things, all the things we did growing up ourselves."
Albany teen killed in early morning crash