CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Corpus Christi community is mourning the loss of a student athlete and young, future firefighter.
Loney Diaz, 17, died on Aug. 26 after suffering a heat stroke while playing football, according to a family member's post on social media.
Loney was a member of the Corpus Christi Fire Department Fire Explorer Program and had just completed Fire Academy at Del Mar College. He planned on joining the CCFD after serving the country in the U.S. Air Force.
CCFD Explorer Post 343 said they lost an "irreplaceable leader in Loney Diaz."
"At 17 years old, Loney was the Company Officer of Engine 2 and demonstrated the values and morals of outstanding leadership," the post said. "CCFD Post 343 asks everyone to offer prayers and condolences to the Diaz family in this troubling time."
Jeff Durrwachter, instructor for Del Mar Fire Academy, said Diaz was a natural leader with a drive unlike any other.
"I started working with him last September and immediately you could tell he was just a fantastic young man. He became the leader or the captain of his particular class lead in every single way way," Durrwachter said.
Curtis Meeks, who is an adviser for the Corpus Christi Fire Explorers, said that Diaz had his career lined out, and he was dedicated to helping others.
"Lonnie was highly motivated. He was what we would call very squared away. He's only 17 years old and he had already gone through the Delmar Fire Academy and he was looking at a career in the Air Force as a fire fighter and hoping to come back after he served his country, with the Corpus Christi fire Department."
Diaz was a senior at Harold T. Branch Academy. The principal, Dr. Tracie S. Rodriguez, said extra counselors are on campus Monday for anyone that needs to talk about the loss.
"A temporary memorial area will be set up at the school for any student or staff who wishes to contribute a personal memory and/or message," Rodriguez said in a letter to the school community. "These messages will be provided to the Diaz family with collective memories that will be cherished as we honor his life and service to our school and community."
Inside the school a memorial had been set up to remember Diaz and the tv monitors in the hallway were showing a montage of photos and other information about the young man.
"I met him when he was 14 and in these three short years I just saw him blossom from a little seed in this huge wonderful plant and I just don't know what else to say I'm shocked I'm at a loss for words," said Al Chang, a teacher at Branch Academy.
Diaz's history teacher Patricia Villarreal read part of an essay that he had written for a distinguished scholars competition.
"I learned early that you can't go through life alone, you need a team on your back, a team you can trust. When difficult times hit and your teammates spirits burn out you have to be that beacon of hope that ignites their flame," Villarreal said, while reading Diaz's essay.
Cameron Timmerman Is a senior at Branch Academy. For her and other classmates who knew Diaz, it's been an emotional day. Eased a bit by Journey, a therapy dog brought in to help everyone thru the tragedy. Cameron said Diaz was a special friend.
"He would always take care of his friends and he loved us. He even loved people he didn't even know. he was helping as many people as he could," Timmerman said.
Diaz's family has set up a GoFundMe account to help with the unexpected expenses.
Condolences for the teen have been pouring in on social media.
A prayer service for Monday at 6 p.m. at Annaville Baptist Church is open to all friends and classmates of Diaz.
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