Friends remember teen at vigil
NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. —
Friends of 16-year-old Justin Santiago call him "the glue," saying he was "always the guy sporting a smile,"' and trying to make sure everyone was getting along.
Sadly, Santiago is no longer here to keep everyone together, and his friends are still struggling to absorb the news.
The popular ninth-grader was riding his bike on Waterman Avenue in North Providence late Wednesday night when he was struck and killed by a car.
The crash is still under investigation and students are still in shock.
Close to 100 friends from several North Providence middle and high schools turned out to a candlelight vigil Thursday night at Evans Field in honor of Justin Santiago.
Dozens of mourners crowded into a gazebo in the park holding candles and carrying photos of Justin. The spot is only a short distance from the basketball courts where Santiago spent most of his time.
"I feel like, he was my big brother," close friend Danny Pineda said.
While North Providence police officials continue their investigation into the car and bike accident, many local students say they're still in shock.
Pineda said, "I've known Justin since 5th grade, I was playing basketball with him all the time, he's just a good kid."
Willis said, "I seen him and I spoke to him, before this happened, and we were supposed to come here and play ball like we usually do, and I just got a text this morning saying that he got into an accident (pause) And I just broke down and cried. I didn't know what to do."
Crying and hugging was just about all the teens knew how to do, while facing the news that their favorite jokester and buddy will never again get the opportunity to make them laugh.
"Justin was just a happy go lucky dude, like, he's a clown! He's a joker, you know? He's one of the best at it, you know? He just makes everybody happy, and it's sad that this happened," Willis said.
"He brought a lot of happiness to a lot of people," Pineda said.
Frank Garguilo, a North Providence High School senior, helped some of the younger students with hugs, and advice.
"Justin passed away, and everyone here came out to support him, and to support his family. We're all good friends to him, everyone here loves each other, and loves him, and we all came out. It's North Providence. Once a Cougar, always a Cougar," said Garguilo.
Willis said, "I just can't believe he's gone. It's hard to believe he's not here, it's horrible."
Friends have vowed to start a summer basketball league in his honor called Team Justin. One friend said that perhaps the only silver lining in this terrible tragedy is that Justin had lost his mother about a year ago and he is now resting in heaven with his mom.