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Tears, Laughter, Love at De Martini Vigil Near Albany

Scores of Tyler De Martini's friends, along with family and concerned community members, took over a Berkeley corner Wednesday night to hold a candlelight vigil near the site of his skateboard crash into a car Monday.

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 on Wednesday night. 

"He'd walk through the hallways at school and shake everybody's hand," said friend Elliot Spector, 17, who is a student at El Cerrito High School.

De Martini, 18, was critically injured Monday when he was down Marin Avenue near the Albany-Berkeley border at about 7 p.m. His family 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 , 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, 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 skate park," said Scaglione, a senior at . "He was holding a skateboard while riding to bring 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 Albany, El Cerrito and the surrounding areas.  

Said Tyler's cousin, Vincent Parella: "He had . 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 needs . 

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 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 memorial service for Tyler De Martini is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. Friday at El Cerrito High School. Email teamtylertribute@gmail.com for more information.

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for updates about Tyler De Martini. 

Read more about Tyler here on Albany Patch.

If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email at albany@patch.com.  

CLARIFICATION: Two quotations in the first section of this story included the wrong attribution information. The attributions have been corrected. 

Chris Wells February 02, 2012 at 03:27 PM
I feel really bad for the driver. Just trying to make a simple left turn then a skateboarder suddenly crashes head first into your windshield and you suddenly have killed a child. I hope people reach out to him and make sure he knows he is not to blame.
Tim Q. Cannon February 02, 2012 at 05:37 PM
I agree.
JJMarieKK February 02, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Oakland Tribune is covering this and another tragedy for El Cerrito: http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_19877619?source=rss
Betty Cho February 02, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Solano Community Church grieves with Tyler De Martini's family and friends and we are praying, as a community, for everyone who knows and loves Tyler. Someone did leave us voicemail at our church offices requesting support but did not leave any information identifying who contacted us. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us again - we would love to connect with you. We would love to help with outreach, services, and support in any way we can through this very difficult and tragic time. You can connect with Solano Community Church at (510) 295-8621 or email info@solanochurch.org and we will respond right away.
Jean McAneny February 02, 2012 at 08:55 PM
I have thought about him too. I would be on suicide watch now if that had happened to me. I hope he does have support to get through this.
Janet Seltzer February 03, 2012 at 12:20 AM
This is so, so tragic. My heart goes out to all of Tyler's family and loved ones. I'm so sorry for your loss.
emilie Lee February 03, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Any word on where and when the funeral is going to be? I am also want to keep the driver in our prayers this was true accident. He has to be in a pain as well. May God watch over Tyler's family, the driver, all the first responders and the community at large.
Emilie Raguso February 03, 2012 at 01:33 AM
We'll definitely let you know when we find out about the funeral, if it's open to the public. We're getting conflicting reports about tomorrow's ECHS memorial... friends and family have said it's "open to the public" but the school is saying it's for students and family only?
Vox Humana February 03, 2012 at 05:38 PM
People have commented on the conditions at that intersection. I'm not sure I agree. I live nearby and I've traveled Marin daily for twenty years. While the new lane arrangement has made things smoother for drivers, it has made traffic move without as much caution, due to the middle lane, where cars turning can migrate before turning, rather than blocking forward moving traffic. The cars go too fast. But once you get in the middle lane, you have to slow down to turn. It's just physics. I came through that intersection last night, at 7:15pm, to see what it was like at that hour, at this time of year. There is a curve in the road, but it works in favor of visibility for the east bound driver, being concave at that point. There is enough light to see what's coming. But closer to the intersection, say the last 100 ft., where no cars are parked, there would be no contrast against the background scene if a skater came zooming by with dark clothes on. I don't understand why Tyler, being an experienced skater, did not anticipate the oncoming driver, who most likely would be turning from the middle turn lane. Maybe he though he could beat him or that he could be seen.
Deni Bluestein February 07, 2012 at 09:09 PM
I am so deeply, deeply sorry for the tragic loss of Tyler, and for his family and friends. I have much compassion for the driver, I can only imagine the pain, guilt, and undeserved self-blame he or she might be experiencing. Having driven that strip of road 1000's of times, I know how difficult it is to discern pedestrians in the glare of the headlights of oncoming traffic. And someone moving fast on a skateboard without lights and reflective clothing would likely be invisible. This incident reminds me again that as long as drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians share our public roadways, we all have the obligation to be responsible for our actions and not assume that "the other guy" can stop in time, can see us, will read our mind. There have been many times I've had to slam on my brakes for a pedestrian who steps into the street with their eyes on their cell phone without looking to see if oncoming traffic can safely stop. Or the cyclist who speeds through a stop sign at a blind corner. It all seems very innocent but can end up as a deadly situation.

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