Friends remember Highlands football player as 'brother'
Besides being a bright student and a talented football player, Ryan Richards was “just that dude” who “made everything better,” said his childhood friend, Blake Leri.
Leri, 16, is the quarterback for the Highlands High School Golden Rams football team. He had been anticipating hurling passes this fall to Richards, a wide receiver.
But Richards, 17, of Tarentum died late Friday night after he fell out of the bed of a moving pickup in West Deer.
After a locker room meeting called by their coach Saturday afternoon, Leri said he was left numb by the loss — one an entire community was struggling to make sense of.
“He was a brother to every one of us,” Leri said as his teammates sobbed and hugged each other.
A vigil for Richards is planned for 8:30 p.m. Sunday at the Highlands High School F-wing parking lot. Those wishing to speak at the vigil should arrive by 7:45 p.m.
Richards died from head injuries suffered when he fell, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office. His death was ruled accidental.
A medical examiner supervisor said Richards was thrown from the vehicle as the driver made a hard left at Poplar Street and Saxonburg Boulevard in West Deer just after 11 p.m. Friday.
The supervisor said Richards was standing in the pickup bed, behind the truck's cab. Three others with him in the bed of the truck had been sitting down. Four others were in the cab of the truck.
Allegheny County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said police were not identifying the driver or passengers, who ranged in age from 17 to 19.
No drugs or alcohol were involved, he said. Moffatt said that police consider this to be a “tragic accident.”
No charges have been filed, he said, but police are investigating.
Richards was taken to a nearby fire station in preparation to be airlifted to a Pittsburgh hospital, but he died at the fire station at 11:42 p.m.
Damen McDermott, 17, said he has been best friends with Richards since the sixth grade. He received a call about the accident and said he was on his way to the hospital when he got another call telling him Richards had died.
He then spent the night with Richards' family.
“He always made people laugh,” McDermott said. “He was one of the best natural-born athletes I'd ever seen, and he wasn't cocky about it. He always cared about somebody else. That's why so many are sad today.”
Richards, who was entering his senior year, was a well-rounded student who excelled in football and baseball, Highlands spokeswoman Misty Chybrzynski said.
“He will be sadly missed by faculty, coaches and teammates and fellow classmates,” she said.
McDermott's mother, Heather Adams, said Richards and her son were part of a group of friends about whom their parents never had to worry.
“I loved that kid like he was one of my own kids,” she said. “That phone call could've been for any one of us last night.”
Adams said she knows all the kids who were in the pickup. She called what happened “a freak accident.”
“It was unfortunate they made a bad decision. At this age, they think they're invincible,” she said.
Caroline Jackson's son, Sean Jackson, 17, was one of Richards' teammates. She was hugging players as they arrived at the stadium for the team meeting.
Caroline Jackson, who works at the high school, said Richards was always positive. He was a leader, a young man who was going places, she said.
Leri said Richards was interested in becoming a police officer.
“This is absolutely devastating to the entire community. He was so bright. He had it all together,” Caroline Jackson said.
Football coach Sam Albert said he learned of Richards' death at 2:30 a.m. Saturday. He said Richards was an “excellent young man,” a straight-A student and a hard worker who never missed a workout.
“He's like a son to me. He's like a brother to them,” he said before the team meeting. “I don't know what to say to them.”
Albert said Richards will be made a team captain. Training camp starts the second week of August.
“We're going to dedicate this season to Ryan,” said Michael Calfe, 18, a tight end on the team. “We're going to win. We're going to win a lot this year.”
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Fire victim’s ex-boyfriend jumps from Tarentum Bridge
- Calm and quick Leechburg bank robber sought
- Harrison woman burned in trailer fire
- Home invasion reported in Tarentum
- PixController honored by Audubon Society for Hays eagle nest camera
- PennDOT response fails to satisfy New Kensington’s safety concerns about Route 366
- Tarentum fire hits vehicles, garage
- Route 28 accident victim in critical condition; expressway reopened after 5.5 hours
- Blessings in a Backpack to help feed Verner Elementary students
- Saxonburg man pleads no contest to setting boy, 7, on fire
- The Oaks Theater in Oakmont to become performance arts venue