-- A Texas high school is in mourning after losing a classmate on graduation day.
Omar Rodas, 18, was killed while on the way to his graduation ceremony Saturday morning, Principal Pat Crittendon told ABC News today.
Rodas’ name was announced at the ceremony and the crowd cheered, but Rodas wasn’t there to walk across the stage and attendees did not know why, she said.
Students and administrators later found out Rodas died in an auto-accident while on his way to Klein Forest High School graduation at NRG Stadium in Houston. He was wearing his graduation cap and gown when the crash happened, according to ABC station KTRK-TV.
“Graduating high school was a large goal in Omar’s life,” Crittendon said. “In my heart I know that we confirmed that he had achieved his goal.”
Crittendon had been Rodas’ principal for six years, starting when Rodas was in middle school, and said Rodas had a great sense of humor and was passionate about soccer.
The teen was a passenger in a Honda Prelude when it hit the back of a dump truck just after 7 a.m. on North Interstate Highway 45, police say. Police did not release Rodas’ identity, but Klein ISD spokeswoman Judy Rimato confirmed it was Rodas.
Rodas was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash and the driver was taken to Ben Taub General Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Police are still investigating the accident.
Rodas’ classmates rallied and held a vigil at the high school Sunday night. Crittendon said nearly 800 students, parents and even Rodas’ elementary school teachers came to pay their respects.
The students tossed their graduation caps one last time to honor Rodas’ memory.
“When they threw their hats at graduation, they didn’t know,” Rimato told ABC News today. “When they threw their hats yesterday, it was for Omar.”
Rimato added that Rodas’ family is not accepting calls from the media.
“There’s a hole in everyone’s hearts,” she said. “Klein Forest might be a large school, but this shows how tight-knit of a community it is.”
Students set up a memory box at Sunday night’s vigil and wrote down their favorite memories and what Rodas meant to them. Rimato said the box will be given to Rodas’ family.