Tyler "Active Ty" De Martini was spontaneous about his plans, driven about his skateboarding and a friend to everybody, recalled many who knew him, at a vigil for him in Berkeley on Wednesday night.
"He'd walk through the hallways at school and shake everybody's hand," said friend Elliot Spector, a 17-year-old student at El Cerrito High School.
De Martini, 18, was critically injured Monday when he was struck by a car while skateboarding down Marin Avenue near the Albany-Berkeley border at about 7 p.m. His family took him off life support Wednesday after doctors were unable to detect brain activity, and he was pronounced dead at 4:10 p.m.
For many friends at Wednesday night's impromptu vigil, which drew 60-80 people throughout the evening, Tyler's commitment to skateboarding and natural athleticism were some of his most memorable qualities.
"He didn't play video games. He didn't read books. All he did was skate," said friend and former El Cerrito High classmate, Ivan Ackley, who came down from Cal State University, Chico — where he is a freshman — to support De Martini in the hospital this week..
Friends said Tyler would spend hours perfecting difficult skateboarding maneuvers, and wouldn't quit until he mastered the move he'd set out to conquer. He was known for jumping down tall stairways on his skateboard without hesitation, no matter how crazy the stunt looked.
Tyler's cousin, Vincent Parella of Hercules, said Tyler had a "heart of gold" and would "do anything for anyone."
"You could call that boy up at 3 in the morning," added Tyler's girlfriend, Hannah Le. "Even if it was something small, like a scary dream, you could call him and he'd pick up."
He was also known for his endless smile, his ease spending money and, said many, his adoration for his own hair.
"He was in love with his hair," said Ackley. "He'd fix his 'swoop' for five minutes, strand by strand."
Sometimes people even mistook Tyler for Justin Bieber, due to their similar locks, charisma and good looks.
THE DAY OF HIS DEATH
Nineteen-year-old Tonio D'Alo — who met Tyler on El Cerrito High's junior varsity baseball team in 2008 — said that just before Tyler set out down Marin Avenue on his skateboard Monday, the two of them were hanging out with another friend in D'Alo's Kensington home.
Sometime before 7 p.m., Tyler left to meet up with some other friends, including Gabe Scaglione of Albany.
"We were all gonna meet up at the skatepark," said Scaglione, a senior at Albany High. "He was holding a skateboard while riding, to bring it to (another friend). He didn't show up and we started calling him at 7:30 or 7:45, but he wasn't answering."
Authorities said Tyler was struck by a car at Marin and Tulare avenues just after 7 p.m. He was rushed to Highland Hospital with what appeared to bystanders to be severe head trauma. Tyler's mother, Kim De Martini, said he never regained consciousness.
That night as he tried to reach his friend, however, Scaglione said he had not yet received the news.
"I thought he might have just gone home," he said, of Tyler. "Sometimes he just doesn't answer his phone."
Scaglione said Tyler's persistence, especially in skateboarding, is one of the qualities he'll remember most.
"He never quit," said Scaglione. "Even if something looked crazy to him, he'd go for it. He'd jump down any size stairs. He'd go and go until he lands it."
THE COMMUNITY CONNECTION
Wednesday's vigil began at 8 p.m. on the corner diagonal from the site of De Martini's actual accident. The corner offered better visibility and a small grassy area for the event.
Within minutes, friends had posted signs up and down a nearby tree with messages to Tyler, and began lighting candles and incense in his memory as well. Some set out items like stuffed animals, flowers and a skateboard.
A circle formed, and a number students cried freely and held each other as they grieved for their friend.
Albany mom Debra Bernhardt said she came to the vigil because of community ties; her daughter is friends with many of those who were affected by Tyler's death.
Initially, she said, her daughter had not wanted to attend the vigil. She ultimately changed her mind after hearing about the outpouring of emotion around the candlelit corner.
"I felt she should learn from the way the community comes together. Everyone's connected and needs one another," said Bernhardt. "It's a thread. We're all connected."
Albany dad Huan Le said he helped organize the vigil in part because of his daughter's close relationship to Tyler. "We wanted to do something to get people to slow down. People here are zooming by. It seems like they're going 45 or 50 mph."
As Huan stood back and regarded the many teenagers connecting at the event, he said he had known many of them since they were 6 or 7 years old.
"Look at them all," he said. "I consider all of them my children. They may be 17 or 18 years old, but you always see that little kid."
Many said the broad turnout, despite a very short planning window, was evidence of all the hearts De Martini touched in El Cerrito, Albany and the surrounding areas.
Said Tyler's cousin, Vincent Parella: "He had friends all over. He knew everybody and everybody loved him." Tyler had a "heart of gold" and would "do anything for anyone." Parella, 22, gave a short speech thanking the group for coming together in De Martini's memory.
SAFETY CONCERNS, AS WELL
Parella said he thought many in attendance would grant more consideration to caution following his cousin's death.
He, along with many others, said the intersection where the accident took place needed much better lighting.
Deborah Krow, who lives in the neighborhood, stopped by the vigil during a nighttime walk with her husband. Krow said she had tried to get a stop sign installed at Marin and Tulare years earlier, but was told by police that a certain number of injuries needed to take place there before that action would be considered.
Krow said, even more than the lighting problem, the curves in the roadway make it hard for drivers to see pedestrians.
"We raised our kids here," she said. "It's really hard to cross the street and have people see you, even if we're well-lit."
Organizer Le said he'd like to see, if not street lights, then reflective signs along the road to remind drivers to pay attention.
"There's nothing to set your eyes on here," he said, of the intersection. "You're blinded when you turn this corner. I hope this gets fixed. Though it's horrible that it takes something like this..."
A private memorial service for Tyler De Martini is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. Friday at El Cerrito High School. Email email@example.com for more information.
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