LIVERMORE — A Livermore High School student was killed, and five classmates were hurt when a pickup truck they were riding in crashed 200 feet down an embankment in an unincorporated area near Livermore, authorities said Saturday.
Hunter Diemert, who would have turned 16 next month, was a popular wrestling team member. He enjoyed fishing, riding dirt bikes, hiking, camping and swimming.
"No words can express our collective sadness and grief at this tragic news," Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (LVJUSD) Superintendent Kelly Bowers said. "Our hearts go out to this young man's loved ones and our entire school community."
Conditions and names of the other injured teenagers were not released. The Livermore Wrestling Club Facebook page and a family GoFundMe page, however, identified one teen as Salvatore Barbalinardo. “Sal” was reportedly in a coma and intubated at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.
“More than anything, we ask for your prayers,” his sister, Giuliana Zetterlund, wrote. “Prayers for Sal, his doctors and our family. Prayers for the families of the children involved.”
Hundreds of people held a candlelight vigil Saturday night at Livermore High to remember Hunter and pray for the recovery of the other victims.
The crash occurred just before 11:30 p.m. Friday, on Del Valle Road, between Mines and Mendenhall roads. Alameda County firefighters said first responders from several agencies responded to the crash. Four of the victims were taken to hospitals in ambulances. Two were flown by helicopter. Rescuers had to remove one of the teens from the mangled truck.
The victims were taken to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley and John Muir Health Walnut Creek Medical Center. Their injuries ranged from minor to major, California Highway Patrol Officer Tyler Hahn said.
The cause of the crash was under investigation, but Hahn said speed might have been a factor.
"For an unknown reason, the vehicle left the roadway and rolled multiple times down a steep embankment," Hahn said. "Seat belt use is still under investigation, as multiple passengers were ejected from the vehicle."
Hahn said investigators are looking into whether the driver swerved to avoid a deer. The age and name of the driver was not released because he is a minor.
“We haven’t even had a chance to talk to all the parties involved because of injuries,” Hahn said Monday. “All around sad situation.”
Anyone who witnessed the crash was asked to call the CHP's Dublin office at 925-828-0466.
In her email, Bowers said the district was mobilizing crisis support teams for staff and students.
"We are all understandably grieving this tragic loss of young life," Bowers said. "In this difficult aftermath, we are sending hope and strength for a full recovery to our other injured students involved and their families. As always, during periods of crisis and trauma, our school district and entire Livermore community will pull together, comfort and support each other."
LVJUSD Deputy Superintendent Chris Van Schaack described the mood at school on Monday as “somber.”
“Students were working through their emotions, providing support to one another in many cases,” Van Schaack said. “The Livermore High counselors and District Crisis Team were there for support as well. A tragedy like this is shocking and takes time to process.”
The scenic area where the crash occurred is popular among young people. Residents complained in June about hundreds of cars pouring into the area for a weekend "sideshow." Some drivers performed driving stunts like "doughnuts" and some raced. There was at least one crash.
Before July 4, Alameda County sheriff’s deputies increased their presence in the area and issued tickets to drivers. They admitted the county needed to fund more officers to increase the number of patrol cars assigned to the roads.
Authorities did not immediately identify the student who was killed, but family and friends identified Hunter during the vigil.
"Great teammate, and a great kid," stated Livermore Wrestling Club on Facebook. "He was always fun to be around."
A GoFundMe site (https://tinyurl.com/twb7ab4n) had raised more than $35,000 through Monday for Hunter’s funeral expenses. He leaves behind his parents, Steve and Amy, and sister, Anna.
Hunter, the site said, spent the last year working weekends and the summer to earn money to buy and fix up a vintage pickup truck. Hunter and his dad worked on it together.
Hunter wrestled in middle and high school, earning a letter as a sophomore.
“Hunter touched so many lives and still had so much to do in life,” the site stated. “The words that come to mind when thinking about this loss are ‘not fair’ and ‘this can't be real.’ His loss will be felt heavily, for a long time to come by his family, friends and all who loved him.”
The GoFundMe page for Sal (https://tinyurl.com/2s3b9ve3) had raised more than $117,000 through Monday. His sister said his family was decorating his room for him to see when he wakes up.
“Salvatore is in critical condition, but he is a fighter!” his sister wrote. “I know he is feeling each and every one of your prayers so please don’t stop. We need them. He is continuing to fight, and we are so hopeful.
Bowers called the crash “a somber reminder of just how precious life is.”
“We take this time to ask for your continued assistance and commitment to keeping our young people safe and sound, in our schools as well as throughout our city," Bowers wrote.