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Copper Hills High senior killed in rollover near school

Published January 4, 2011 12:03 am

Accident • The senior whom principal calls the "best of the best" was returning from a service project.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

West Jordan • A 17-year-old Copper Hills High School senior, whose principal called him "the best of the best," died Monday in a crash near the school after he was ejected from a pickup truck.

Jose Ceballos was one of six people in a Dodge crew cab pickup that only has five seat belts. At about 9:15 a.m., the truck and another car were traveling at high rates of speed when the truck rolled near 8400 South and Grizzly Way, east of the high school's football field, West Jordan police Sgt. Drew Sanders said.

Ceballos was ejected and died at the scene, he said. Others involved in the crash had minor injuries.

"My heart is broken today," said Todd Quarnberg, Copper Hills' principal. "He was the best of the best."

The students — members of Latinos in Action, a leadership program in which students do service projects — were returning from nearby Jordan Hills Elementary School, where they volunteer twice a week.

Sanders could not say whether the vehicles were racing at the time of the crash, and citations or charges could be pending.

Word spread quickly through the school's 2,400 students, who wept and consoled one another. Quarnberg announced Ceballos' death over the school intercom, and counselors were made available.

"He was someone who would always be there for you," said sophomore Jennifer Gomez, a friend of Ceballos. "He had the biggest heart in the world."

Ceballos was an active member of the soccer team and had a 3.6 grade-point average, Quarnberg said.

Team members were said to be devastated by the news. Quarnberg, who spoke with the soccer team after the announcement, said they would have given up anything to have their teammate back.

"He is not a kid who shows up to play soccer. He is soccer at the school," Quarnberg said.

Senior Alyssa Ferber had known Ceballos for the past couple of years through class and their shared affinity for soccer.

"It's really hard, but at the same time I know that he is in a better place," Ferber said.

Sophomores Armando Tobias and Francisco Romero called Ceballos the friendliest guy in school, someone who invited everyone to play soccer.

"He was cool like that," Romero said. "It's disappointing how it just happened to him."

Quarnberg, an officer and a grief counselor, delivered the news to Ceballos' family.

"You can see the pain. The anguish," he said. "His mother kept repeating, 'I will miss him.' "

Quarnberg said the family had planned to help their son continue his studies. Ceballos also leaves behind a 10-year-old sister.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced, but students were encouraged to participate as speakers if they so desired.

rorellana@sltrib.com