He was headed to school and his family was making plans for his graduation in a few months—but that was before a car crash last week that took the life of 18-year old Stephan Ramirez.
Ramirez was a senior at Moriarty High School, and was on his way to school March 3, when his car veered off the freeway into the median, “where it rolled several times,” according to Torrance County Sheriff Heath White.
Torrance County is working with the State Police to investigate the accident, White said.
That investigation will include “downloading the computer on the car, which will let us know speed, braking, things like that, just right before the accident,” White said. Ramirez was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, White said.
While at least one student had expressed concern that Ramirez might have been using his cell phone right before the accident, or driving recklessly, White said the investigation will look at those issues. However, the sheriff said right now none of that is known.
The high school senior was making plans to enter nursing and wanted to attend the University of New Mexico, said his mother, Sondra Ramirez.
“The kids of 2016 in Moriarty High School have been so amazing,” Sondra Ramirez said. “They’ve messaged me, they’ve done so much. They’re going to put a spread in the yearbook, because he was supposed to graduate with them. They’re going to walk his cap and gown through the graduation ceremony.”
High school students organized a candlelight vigil the night of his death, as well as taking up collections and holding car wash fundraisers to help the Ramirez family with funeral expenses. Over the weekend one was held in Edgewood at Smith’s and another in Moriarty at Hart’s Hardware. A gofundme page had raised about $8,000 as of Tuesday.
“He loved cats—that was his favorite thing,” his mother said. “And the color purple. A lot of the kids are going to wear purple shirts and cat shirts.”
A sister, Monica Ramirez, “had a lot of health issues,” her mother said, but will gradate this year. “He was very protective of her.” He also leaves behind two younger sisters, Rockelle and Savanah Ramirez.
“He was everybody’s friend, I guess,” said Ciara Ball, describing herself as Ramirez’ best friend. “He was happy all the time, funny, always cracked jokes. He was the person you could turn to, who would never judge you. He was simply fun to be around. He was the life of the party, it was never a dull moment with him.”
Ball said she hasn’t been back to school yet. “It’s been really hard,” she said, adding that teachers and counselors have been very supportive.
Asked what she would miss about her friend, Ball answered, “Just his laugh, and always making me happy. We’d always leave school together and have fun. It’s really hard.”
Senior Michael Pearce said he and Ramirez had met “in second or third grade” and became friends. “We were kind of the awkward kids, if you know what I’m saying,” he said. “We were close because of that, through middle school and high school. He was like my brother, he came to my youth group, came to my house every weekend. I just miss him so much.”
Michael’s twin brother Matthew Pearce said, “He loved to eat—eating food was his favorite thing. He loved pizza rolls. Another favorite thing was cats, he always wore cat shirts. He was always sending us funny Snapchat stories.”
Both brothers described their friend as spontaneous. “He loved to live life like it was his last day—he would do something and not think about the consequences,” said Matthew Pearce.
“He was a really funny social guy,” said Michael Pearce. “He was kind of spontaneous—you never knew what he was going to say. The most bad day, he would just make me laugh. He was just one of those guys who knew how to keep you laughing.”
Another senior, Savannah Lowe, said the first time she met Stephan, she had planned to confront him, but they instead became friends.
“For me he was that person I could tell anything to. … A lot of people don’t know the things he went through,” Lowe said. “I have a lot of funny stories with him and I think that’s one thing that helps me get through all this—that’s how I cope, remembering the good times with him.”
She continued, “I feel like when I met him I was more like a closed off kid, I wasn’t very open with meeting people, or trying new things. He was the one who made me open up to those experiences. I made a lot of friends because of him. I don’t want to go back to that, so I’ll try to keep meeting people. That’s how he changed me.”
Marcus Anderson said he met Stephan in middle school, and described him as “smart but committed to not caring any more.”
Anderson worried that his friend might have been texting or “snapping” while driving, which he said was “not an isolated incident” for Ramirez.
“I’m hoping for a wake-up call not just this one crazy incident where he flipped his car three times,” he said.
“I feel like it can wait—texting, calling, Snapchat, it can wait,” said Michael Pearce. “I’m stopping because my mom is just so devastated that he died. I wouldn’t want to do that to her. … I’m not saying I believe it, but I feel like he might. He did do stuff like that a lot. I’m praying that he wasn’t but you never know.”
“He wasn’t like a social media fanatic,” Lowe said. “He would text a few times if it was important, like his mother. But he wouldn’t get so distracted that he would swerve.”
She added, “I guess … popularity and and things like that the kids are all obsessed with isn’t as important as know what’s going on around you and you need to focus on the now and your surroundings so you know what’s happening.”
“It’s been hard for us to know that he’s not there, like when we go to class and not see him there, it’s really hard, especially on his girlfriend,” Matthew Pearce said. “He didn’t think he was friends with a lot of people, but he actually was. There are a lot of people that cared about him.”
“He had a bright future and a lot of friends,” his mother said. “I’m just overwhelmed by how many people have gone to my house, given me flowers—another student made a cross for him where he lost his life. All he wanted to do was graduate and go on to nursing school.”
A funeral service will be held at Copper Pointe Church in Albuquerque at 11 a.m. on March 12. A celebration of his life will take place at American Legion Post 13 in Albuquerque later that day.