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Michael J. Silver, 18 -- Car Accident

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Rio Americano High School didn't seem the same Tuesday without Michael J. Silver, a popular varsity soccer player.

As students arrived for classes, word spread that the friendly 18-year-old senior had been killed hours earlier in a fiery single-car crash on Fair Oaks Boulevard east of Watt Avenue, not far from campus.

"Everyone was kind of huddling together. We were just crying," said senior Kimberly Bender, a close friend. "There was complete shock."

Amid the grief, some students, including Ryan Lindquist, began organizing an after-school memorial service.

"We notified the parents. They thought it was a good idea," Lindquist said.

At 3 p.m. - 14 hours after Silver's death - more than 75 people gathered at Gold River Park, next to Gold River Discovery Center, Silver's elementary school. The mourners included Silver's parents, John and Cynthia Silver, as well as friends from other area high schools.

Standing in a circle, they listened as speakers paid tribute.

"Michael was a nice kid," said the first speaker, Dennis Williams, whose son, Kyle, a Rio Americano senior, grew up with Silver.

"He was bright and energetic, an excellent athlete," Williams added, his words punctuated by soft wails from the assembly.

Clay Vanosdol, 17, a Rio Americano senior, spoke about the fine son the Silvers raised.

"I just want to say thank you to his family," he said, gazing at the parents.

"Everybody here knew Mike," he continued. "Nobody ever disliked him. Everybody loved him."

Others spoke about Silver's soccer talents, and said just having him on the field helped the team win.

The brief but emotional service concluded with Cynthia Silver, holding a framed 8-by-10-inch photo of Michael Silver, thanking his friends and remembering her son: "He was a fine kid."

John Silver said his family would never forget the kindness of his son's friends.

"We're so deeply touched," Silver said. "We just can't believe he had so many friends who would do this for him.

"As long as these friends remember him, at least a little piece of him will still be alive."

Several posters with hand-scribbled farewell messages were displayed at the service:

"Mike, your jokes and your laughter will always be with us. We are lucky to have known you," one message said.

Another read, "Mike - hey, I remember back to our first day of kindergarten, when we were scared to go on the bus. But we made it! You'll be missed so much, because you've touched so many lives."

One of the last people to see Silver alive was Bender, who said she studied with him until late Monday for an American government test.

"We looked over our notes" until just before 10 p.m. while seated in his car in Carmichael, she said.

Silver later studied for a math test with another student and was returning to his Gold River home about 1 a.m. when he was killed, his father said.

He was westbound on Fair Oaks Boulevard when his 1997 Toyota 4-Runner veered to the left into the center median and struck a tree head-on near Lake Wilhaggin Drive, the California Highway Patrol said.

Silver probably died on impact, CHP spokesman Officer Max Hartley said. Soon afterward, the car burst into flames.



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