Family and friends of a Granite Hills High School star football player were stunned and mourning Tuesday following his death in a traffic accident while returning from the team’s end-of-season banquet.

William Burton of Granite Hills High School.
William Burton of Granite Hills High School. Image via

William Burton, 17, was killed shortly before 8:30 p.m. Monday, when the westbound vehicle he was riding in collided with an SUV on South Grade Road in Alpine, near the gated community of Rancho Palo Verde, according to school officials and the California Highway Patrol.

The teen died at the scene of the wreck, which left four other people with minor to moderate injuries, the CHP reported.

William was a standout defensive lineman who was recently named to the CIF All-San Diego first team defense. He also led all Eagles receivers and tight ends with 28 catches for 287 yards and four touchdowns.

One of his best performances came during a game against Steele Canyon in September, when he caught two touchdowns, including the game winner with 2.9 seconds left in the contest.

The Granite Hills senior, who also played baseball at the El Cajon campus, is survived by his parents, Bradford and Donna, and brothers, Jake and Zachary.

At the time of the fatal accident, William was riding in the back of a Jeep Wrangler without a rear seat, according to investigators. When the vehicle began to drift off the roadway, the driver, an 18-year-old Crest man whose name has not been released, yanked the steering wheel in the other direction, sending the Jeep veering back across the roadway, into the path of the oncoming Lexus SUV.

The resulting broadside impact ejected William onto the roadway, fatally injuring him, CHP Officer Travis Garrow said.

The driver of the Jeep and a front-seat passenger, a 17-year-old Alpine boy, were both wearing seat belts, Garrow said. Medics took them to Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego.

The 51-year-old Alpine resident behind the wheel of the Lexus and his passenger, a 13-year-old girl, were treated for minor injuries at the scene.

Intoxication was not believed to have been a role in the crash, Garrow said.

As news of the teen’s death spread, condolences and tributes began pouring in on social media.

“Condolences to the Burton family,” wrote Twitter user @topdawg619. “We lost a GREAT young man last night. Words (can’t) describe the pain of (losing) a child. My deepest sympathies for your loss. Will was a GREAT young man, thank you for sharing him with us. He will be missed!!”

“RIP Will Burton and I hope your family finds peace,” tweeted J.R. Justice, a football player from St. Augustine High. “Every game next year is for you my man.”

Mikel Oliver, a football player from rival Steele Canyon High, tweeted that his “prayers go out to the entire Burton family” and said his school’s state Division 3-A championship game this Saturday would be played in honor of the deceased teen.

“Sad thing to see such a young amazing life be taken from this world,” Oliver said. “R.I.P Will this Saturday is all for you big fella. Much love, you will be dearly missed and never forgotten.”

Grossmont Union High School District officials praised William as a student who was “well-loved and very active on campus.”

“His positive spirit touched the lives of many on campus and in the community,” they stated. “He will be greatly missed.”

Counseling services were being provided at the school to help students cope with the trauma.

— City News Service

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.