SIERRA VISTA — With one finger pointed to the sky, loved ones around him and tears falling from his eyes, Oscar Lopez addressed his younger brother.
“I’m going to make you proud, Mario,” he said in front of hundreds gathered at Veterans Memorial Park Monday night. “I know you have my back and I’m not going to let you down.
“God has received a beautiful angel.”
A vigil was held Monday night for 15-year-old Mario Lopez after his accidental death earlier that morning. Family members, friends, teammates and members of the community donned Buena blue in memory of the Buena High School football player and star wrestler.
“(Mario) touched everyone out here in his 15 years of life,” Tim Jones said of the person he considered a younger brother. “I was in denial this morning but then I thought, ‘What would Mario want?’ Don’t let his death be in vain; move forward. That’s what Mario would want.”
Mario Lopez, who would have been a sophomore when classes begin in August, passed away Monday morning at a Level I trauma center in Tucson after being flown from Canyon Vista Medical Center.
The Sierra Vista Police Department as well as Sierra Vista Fire and Medical Services responded to a call at 12:11 a.m. regarding a juvenile male who “was severely injured with head trauma due to a singular vehicle incident in the area of Avenida Escuela and Blackbird Drive,” according to Sierra Vista Police Lt. Sean Brownson.
“One teenage male was driving while the other was standing on the roof,” Brownson told the Herald/Review. “(Lopez) landed on his head, causing serious trauma.
Brownson added Lopez showed some signs of life at the scene before being taken to the local hospital and then Tucson. SVPD has not filed any charges against the driver and is turning the report over to Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre, who can file charges if he sees fit.
“There is no indication at this point that any intoxicants were involved by either party,” Brownson added. “It was very reckless behavior for the driver to drive with someone on the roof.”
Parents and peers urged attendees to use Mario’s death as a lesson to make smart choices and reminded everyone that they are the ones who can change the tragedies that have happened not only in Sierra Vista but around the world.
“Let’s grow together. Let’s get stronger together. ... Let’s not get stuck. Mario wouldn’t want us to cry and not move on,” Jones said.
Sierra Vista Unified School District mourned Lopez’s loss in a statement issued Monday afternoon, and said they will offer support for students who need it.
“Our Buena High School and Sierra Vista Unified School District family is a little smaller today, and we are heartbroken because of it,” the statement said. “It is with deep regret that we inform you about a recent loss to our school community. Early this morning, Buena High School student Mario Lopez died from injuries he suffered in a fall from the roof of a vehicle. Our thoughts are with Mario’s family and friends as they navigate this tough time.
“This loss is sure to raise many emotions, concerns, and questions for our entire community, especially our students. We will soon provide information and resources that may be useful to you in helping your children or yourself deal with this tragic situation.
“We are saddened by the loss to our school community and will make every effort to help you and your child as you need.”
Lopez earned a fifth-place medal at the Section II state wrestling championship in February, an impressive feat which was evidence of his hard work, according to his coach and Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels.
“This was a future state wrestling champion for Buena High School,” Dannels said. “He was only a freshman, but he left a large impression ... and no doubt he was going to be a big part of next year’s team.
“We will do something to honor him this season. That’s my promise to his family.”
Although he won’t step onto the football field in the fall or onto the mat in the winter, Lopez will be carried on through those he left behind. Attendees Monday said his death will be used as motivation for the Colt athletes just as their teammate would have wanted.
“From now on, we’re doing this for Mario,” said Mario’s friend and former teammate Devin Sullivan through tears. “Every time I step on that mat, I have a purpose. I love you, Mario.”
Each person to talk about the fallen teen mentioned how happy and friendly Lopez was, even to those he didn’t know. That is how they choose to remember him and continue his legacy.
“We have to take his memory forward as a team and that’s what I’m going to do,” Dannels said. “It’s hard to accept, but it’s real.”