MILAN -- Brady Weber's loved ones said goodbye on Thursday, just hours after the crash that killed him.
His people wanted to see him off right and wasted no time, despite their grief. So, as the sun fell Thursday afternoon, bringing to bear the last of the day's heat, they gathered at Milan's Camden Park. It was not long before they were about 200 strong, perhaps stronger. They held dozens of balloons singularly or in clusters.
Katrina Ritchie, his mother, said Brady was the light of her life.
And, if someone needed something, her son was there, she said
"It didn't matter what time," she said.
Around her the group wept, hugged, drank, talked and laughed in Brady Weber's name.
The Mercer County Sheriff's Office said Mr. Weber was killed in a two-vehicle collision around 7 a.m. at the intersection of U.S. 67 and Ridge Road. Mr. Weber's black pickup truck and a white car with two occupants struck each other. The black truck was southbound and the white car was at the intersection when the collision occurred.
Mr. Weber was pronounced dead at the scene by Mercer County Coroner Greg Larson, according to the sheriff's office. He was 18.
The people in the white car were transported to the hospital, but their injuries did not appear life threatening, according to the sheriff's office. Their identities were not released on Thursday.
Sherrard School District Superintendent Alan Boucher issued a memo to the district about the crash.
Mr. Weber, he said, had attended Sherrard schools since preschool. He had finished coursework for a Sherrard High School diploma through Black Hawk College.
"Two other students were involved with the crash," he added. "I have been told they were taken to the hospital and have been released."
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Brady Weber was an "extremely hard worker with an upbeat, jovial and friendly manner," Mr. Boucher said.
"It is difficult to understand and nearly impossible to explain a life lost at such an early age," Mr. Boucher said.
Mr. Weber wanted to be a diesel mechanic and to own a farm, his mother said. She said it felt joyous to see so many people gather to say goodbye.
"I'm just glad my son touched a lot of lives," she said.
There was a bit of breeze Thursday, and the balloons -- blue in every shade and also green, orange, red, black and other colors -- bobbed under its force.
Many of the balloons had messages scrawled on their bulging sides.
"Thank you for everything you've done for me and my family, Brady," one said.
"You'll be missed, Brady," said another.
When they decided the time was right, the friends and family of Brady Weber set those balloons free.
At first they were a tight cluster, but the wind and their own buoyancy forced them apart. As they sped away they became a thin, ragged constellation. Soon they were mere flecks of color in the paling blue sky.
Then they were gone, taking their messages to Brady with them.
Photo editor Todd Mizener contributed to this report.