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Crash victim's family hopes tragedy will make other teens think about safe driving

Posted at 7:27 PM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 22:27:14-04

PHOENIX — A family spoke out Wednesday after a teenager was killed in a devastating crash over the weekend, advising other teens to think twice about safety before getting behind the wheel.

Gathered at the family home in Arcadia, mom, dad, aunts, uncles, and friends, reflected over a porch memorial filled with mementos from the life of 17-year-old Tomas Villaverde.

"Everyone calls him 'Masi,'" said Robert Munoz, Villaverde's Godfather. "I can't remember the last time we called him Tomas," he said.

Villaverde was a Jr at Arcadia High School and loved all things sports, especially baseball. He also loved spending time with family.

"He loved playing horseshoes," Munoz said. "At an annual camping trip that we do, that was the biggest thing that he loved, he looked forward to it every year."

Masi's older sister, Celese Villaverde, says their brother/sister bond was strong. With her being the oldest, she said lovingly, Masi was always in her shadow.

"We were stuck like glue," she said. "He was just always with me everywhere I went," she said.

Whether it was going to get food or goofing around and having fun the two spent a lot of time together.

"He was the life of the party, everybody made jokes with him and laughed with him," Celese said. "Losing somebody that close, it just hits home," she said, eyes filling with tears.

Masi was killed Sunday night in a horrific crash at the intersection of 36th Street and Indian School Road.

Police say the car he was in was traveling at a high rate of speed when it careened into another vehicle attempting to make a turn.

Family says Masi was in the back seat at the time.

Two other teens in the car suffered critical injuries, but are expected to survive.

Police say the 50-year-old man in the other car sustained non-life-threatening injuries, but also said the man showed signs of impairment on scene. No word yet if he'll face charges.

Masi's family hopes their loss will make an impact on others and hopefully save lives.

"If Masi can touch other people's hearts and save other people's lives then that's just what had to happen," Munoz said.

"He was just a great young man and he was very loved by all of us," he said.

Masi's cousin, Marti Flores, broke down in tears saying they were just a month apart in age, and she just can't believe he's gone.

"It's hard," she said, tears rolling down her face. "He was supposed to graduate with us, we were supposed to have parties together," Flores said.

Masi's uncle, Marty Flores, said the house just isn't the same without him around. He remembers so many funny moments watching his nephew growing up.

"Just remembering some of the stuff that he said when he was little," he reflected. "He used to say up-SLIDE-down and that was one of the funniest things that I’ll never forget," Flores said.

The family says most of all they want people to remember Masi's giving spirit. They said he would go out of his way to help people, even those he didn't know.

"He was always willing to help others," Munoz said.

His sister has a message to everyone who hears her brother's story.

"Cherish those moments with your family because you never know when something might happen when you least expect it, and it’s very tragic," she said. "Whatever fights or grudges that you have against someone, just release it, let go and hold them close because you never know."

Services for Tomas "Masi" Villaverde are still pending.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help with expenses.