Novato teen killed in solo crash was celebrating his 16th birthday

The Novato teenager killed in a solo-vehicle crash Sunday afternoon was celebrating his 16th birthday, friends say.

They identified him as Mario Lupercio Jr., a student at San Marin High School, where he played on the varsity football team. 

His coaches, Dominic Di Mare and Cory Boyd, said Mario had an infectious smile and a calm demeanor. "Academics were an uphill battle for him, but football was his north star, and he made really good friends on the team and he was well-liked on campus,"  Boyd said. 

"I don't think the reality has really hit the kids," Di Mare added. "And I told my son and some other players, Mario is gone, but they don't seem to grasp what it really means."

At football practice Monday afternoon, players shouted Mario's name, breaking their huddle.  
Later that evening, athletes joined a vigil of more than 100 people on Simmons Lane -- the crash scene. 

"He was fun, he just wanted everybody to laugh and have fun," said friend Angelo Garcia. 

"The question we have is, why him?" asked friend David Lendin. "And it's hard to accept that he had to go so early, especially on his birthday, that's the worst part." 

On Sunday at about noon, Mario was killed when he lost control on a residential street and slammed into a retaining wall. Police say he was speeding to pass another car in a 30 mph zone. 
Witnesses pulled his two injured passengers from the car. Both are 16-year-old boys, hospitalized in stable condition. 

Mario was killed instantly. On Monday, the sidewalk, driveway, and damaged wall, were adorned with flowers, candles, and notes in his memory. The affection people felt for Mario was reflected in the size and staying-power of the vigil, which grew through the evening and required Novato police to direct traffic as the crowd spilled into the street. Students and adults stood, somber and silent, some weeping, many holding hands and hugging each other. 

"It should be a real wake-up call for parents," said Novato Police Capt. Matt McCaffrey. "At this point, we don't believe he has a driver's license so that's probably a primary factor, just lack of experience." 

Driving with friends in the car also added a distraction and known risk factor- which is why teen licenses restrict passengers. 

As to where Mario got the keys ?   

"That is one of the main factors we're looking at right now: who the vehicle belonged to, how they got possession of it, was it something they borrowed on their own or was it given to them,"  McCaffrey said.   
Vehicular crashes are the number one killer of teenagers. One in five teenagers will have a car accident in their first year of driving. 

"It's the age-old dilemma of students and cars and invincibility," said Novato School Supt. Kris Cosca. 

The district is providing counseling services at San Marin High School and other campuses attended by Mario's siblings. 

Cosca urged parents to talk and listen, as their children express grief and feelings of fragility. 

"Maybe take that moment to have one more conversation with your child, encourage them to be thoughtful and safe behind the wheel and not give in to some of those impulses," Cosca said. "This isn't a time to blame this generation or blame this child or these boys. It's just a time to wrap your arms around all these kids and love them."

A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist Mario's family with expenses.