Colby Middlebrooks, a high school ministry and outreach director at Hope Point Nazarene Church in Yuba City, opened Thursday night’s candlelight vigil for Kyle Watson by commenting on the number of people who showed up in support of the 18-year-old who was tragically killed in a car accident last week.
The circle of support widened nearly to the edges of the parking lot outside of The French Whisk restaurant in Sutter. Most had candles lit, some spoke fondly of Watson, while a host of others sobbed off and on throughout the somber evening that included a few raindrops onto the crowd.
Middlebrooks referenced the raindrops as a sign that Watson was still with his friends and family in Sutter.
Watson was a standout multi-sport athlete who graduated from Sutter Union High School this past June.
Ryan Staas, Watson’s older brother, said Kyle was working and trying to earn a spot on the Butte College football team at the time of the tragic accident.
He said he and his family will never forget that phone call they got on Sept. 2.
“It’s very tragic,” Staas said. “As an older brother these thoughts never cross your mind.”
Staas said the evening began with a fun, friendly, family game night in his hometown. There was corn hole, dinner, and many other activities that Watson, Staas and all his five brothers and sisters were enjoying as the kickoff to Labor Day weekend.
Watson then got in the car and headed home to his college where he was a hard-working student-athlete, Staas said.
About an hour later, Staas remembers the phone call back home in the Sutter area.
“We got a phone call that you never want to receive, that Kyle was in a major accident,” he said. “We rushed up to Chico to see him, hoping for the best.”
The rest was a long series of prayers for Watson to pull through, but unfortunately he passed away on Sept. 5, Staas said.
“Kyle will be with me forever,” the 26-year-old Sutter Union graduate said. “He’d always tell everybody, ‘Oh I want to be like my older brother,’ but I want to live more like Kyle. He was very open, free spirited.”
Watson was loved in the Sutter community. As Middlebrooks noted during the vigil, there may be many in the community hurting right now and asking for answers as to why Watson was taken from them. Middlebrooks urged everyone on Thursday to not hide their grief, but lean on their support group to get through this tragic time.
Watson also leaves behind many friends, former and current teammates and his girlfriend, Madison Stokes.
Elizabeth Stokes, Madison’s mother, was one of the few vocal voices Thursday. She said Watson was one-of-a-kind that had amazing gifts and one unusual physical attribute.
“We got to know Kyle really well and I don’t know if any one of you ever looked at Kyle’s feet but his second toe was really long,” Stokes said. “We always said, ‘Kyle, why do you have a finger on your foot?’”
Stokes referenced a time when they were out wakeboarding when Watson’s finger toe got in the way of completing his ride.
It started, she said, when Stokes’ husband yelled out while Watson was on the board, “Hey Kyle, look at that toe.”
Watson looked down and his toe was completely wrapped around the wakeboard.
Of course he’d wreck, but bounced right back up, Stokes said.
“He was nothing but happy and got up and did it again,” Stokes said. “Of course he was checking out that toe the whole time making sure it was out of the water.”
Stokes said she will remember his laughs, his tricks and how he fit right into the family almost from the moment of inception.
“What a great kid. I learned so much from Kyle,” Stokes said.
Chico California Highway Patrol said that at about 10:22 p.m. on Sept. 2 Watson was driving northbound on Highway 99 in a 2005 Ford F-150 pickup when for unknown reasons he drifted off the highway at the Neal Road exit and into the center divider.
CHP said Watson used evasive action to prevent a collision, but the pickup rolled over for an undetermined amount of time.
Law enforcement believes at the time of the accident that Watson was not wearing a seat belt.
It’s also unknown at this time if distracted driving or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol played a role in the collision.
The accident remains under investigation, CHP said.
Funeral services are pending.