Los Banos mourns boy killed in suspected DUI crash

tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comNovember 6, 2012 

An outpouring of emotion and memories met the news that a fifth-grader had been killed over the weekend in a crash believed to have been caused by a drunken driver.

Jan Whitehurst, Volta Elementary School principal, described 10-year-old Jayden Thomas on Monday as outgoing, friendly and having a great sense of humor.

"He was very helpful, especially with younger kids," she said.

Crisis counselors were on the Volta campus Monday to speak with children, Whitehurst said.

"Our focus today is to help kids and staff get through this," she said.

Jayden, a Los Banos Wildcats peewee quarterback, was killed before midnight Saturday on his way home from a football game in Manteca.

Jayden was a passenger in a 1992 BMW, struck on its passenger side by a 1991 Chevrolet pickup driven by Justin Nappi, 20, of Los Banos. Police say Nappi's pickup ran a stop sign at Place Road and East B Street.

Nappi was arrested and booked on suspicion of felony DUI causing injuries and gross vehicular manslaughter. He is being held at John Latorraca Correctional Facility in lieu of $310,000 bail.

Comments from well-wishers have filled the Los Banos Wildcats Facebook page.

Family and friends set up an impromptu car wash Sunday to help cover Jayden's funeral expenses. Some reports indicated the fund- raiser brought in about $4,000.

Erik Limon, a peewee football coach, estimated 800 to 1,000 people filled Pacheco High School's Veterans Memorial Stadium Sunday night for a vigil. Many could be seen clutching a candle as tears streamed down their faces.

Limon said people, many of whom had a connection to football, came from as far as Manteca and Modesto to remember Jayden on Sunday.

"It was our little community coming together," Limon said.

Thomas family friend Raylene Barton said Jayden's mother, Maria, and 2-year-old sister, Jazlien, are expected to leave the hospital today. She said the child is being held for observation. Jayden's father, Demond, and 8-year-old sister, Ja'leiah, have been treated and released.

Barton said she did not see the collision, but was on the scene soon after. "It was very sad. ... It was traumatizing," Barton said.

She remembered Jayden as shy, but a leader among his peers who got along well with others.

"He was such a cute kid," she said, holding back tears. "His smile would light up a room."

Cmdr. Ray Reyna Jr. said Los Banos police will aid the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to determine who may have provided the 20-year-old pickup driver with alcohol. Reyna would not comment on whether there were passengers in the truck.

"This was such a tragic case," Reyna said, "and completely avoidable."

Los Banos Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

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