ENCINITAS, Calif. – More than 100 teammates and loved ones held a vigil Wednesday night to honor South Bay soccer star Dante Longo who died in a weekend car crash.
“My world changed when Dante died,” his father Charlie Longo said.
It happened early Sunday morning when El Cajon police say they found Longo’s body in the driver’s seat of a BMW near the 400 block of Vernon Way. He had been traveling west on Vernon Way when he crossed the line of traffic and collided with a parked box truck, according to the county Medical Examiner’s office.
The pain is so raw for those who knew the 24-year-old, particularly for Charlie who was fighting back tears.
But despite the overwhelming sadness, he said his son would have wanted everyone to remember only the good times.
“Dante wouldn’t want tears,” he said. “He’d want laughter and I know you all have a story (or) a memory of Dante breaking your balls but loving him anyway.”
Longo, a Chula Vista resident, had a decorated soccer career playing at Otay Ranch High School and Cal State San Marcos. This week, his college coach, Ron Pulvers, called him an amazing player who had a sizable impact on the community.
“The first moment I met him, he’s got a real magnetism about him,” Pulvers said Tuesday.
He was known for his skills on the field, but he was also loved for the kind of person he was.
“I struggled with the transition (to) collegiate soccer,” teammate Jacob Johnston said. “It was difficult trying to connect with other guys. He kind of put his hand out, put his arm around me.”
For his college teammates, there are only so many words to say goodbye to a guy who meant so much.
“The first week, I mean like I hated that kid cause we were butting heads on the field and whatnot,” teammate Daniel Alexander said, “but after we got over that we were inseparable. This guy, he’d walk into a room and the whole atmosphere would change just like that just from his presence.”
“I wish more people got a chance to meet him, and the world is a better place because of the lives he’s touched,” Johnston said. “I’m a better person for how he touched me personally.”
Another vigil for Longo will be held at 1:13 p.m. Sunday at Otay Ranch High School.