ENCINTAS, Calif. (KGTV) – It was a somber setting as the sun began to set on Moonlight State Beach on Wednesday evening.
Dozens of people gathered to honor Dante Longo, a former Cal State San Marcos and Otay Ranch High School soccer player.
On the morning of Feb. 6, Longo was killed in a car crash in El Cajon. The San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office said that Longo was a Chula Vista resident.
El Cajon Police said Longo’s car crossed into another traffic lanes on Vernon Way and collided with a parked box truck. Longo was the only passenger in his vehicle. Police added that no one was inside the box truck at the time of the crash.
"I've known him since I was really young. I went to the same elementary school as him. He was always kind of my soccer idol,” said Yawara MacNeill, a friend of Longo's. “I watched him play when I was young and really finding myself in the sport. Seeing a role model like that was easy to follow."
Former teammates described Longo as really good on the soccer pitch.
"Like you would have a nightmare if he was the one playing against you,” said former teammate Daniel Alexander.
Alexander continued, "Dante was a transfer, and we played the same position. So, the first week, I mean, like, I hated that kid because we were butting heads on the field and what not. But, after we got over that, we were inseparable for the rest of the three years while we played on the team. I just kind of looked over him as a little brother to me."
Ron Pulvers, Longo's head coach at Cal State San Marcos, said that Longo's toughness truly resonated with the team in 2018, when he recovered from being in a coma following a previous car crash.
"They didn't think he was ever going to play soccer again. But, of course, the kid was so determined. We named an award called the Iron Cougar after Dante. The Dante Longo Iron Cougar award and that goes annually to the player who's pound-for-pound the toughest player,” Pulvers said.
There were tears shed and memories shared on Wednesday night. Some hope this moment in time can give them a chance to heal and remember the man who touched so many lives.
"Dante ... his family certainly raised a young man who had an enormous impact on so many, every person who he came into contact with,” Pulvers said.
"What you see from Dante is exactly what you go. He was unapologetically himself always. Just so genuine. And I think he had a lot of love in his heart to give to everyone,” Alexander said.
Another memorial for Longo will be held Feb. 13 at Otay Ranch High School's soccer field.