An 18-year-old Ottawa Hills High School senior was killed in a fiery crash shortly after midnight Saturday on an Ottawa Hills street as he drove home from a schoolmate's birthday party, authorities and friends who gathered at the scene later in the day said.
Brian Hoeflinger was southbound on Edgehill Road about 12:30 a.m. when his vehicle went off the street's west side, struck a tree near a bridge over the Ottawa River, and caught fire, troopers at the Ohio Highway Patrol's Toledo post said.
He was using seat belts, troopers said.
About 13 hours later, three teenage boys stood silently by the tree, glancing at a burnt spot the wreckage appeared to have left on the ground. Someone had spray-painted Mr. Hoeflinger's initials and a heart-shaped sign on the tree in blue.
"I am just broke up," said Peter Graham, 16, of Ottawa Hills. "When someone texted me, I just felt disbelief."
Young Graham said Mr. Hoeflinger was driving home from a birthday party for Alex Crider, an Ottawa Hills High junior, when the crash occurred. Young Graham, also a high-school junior, said he and Mr. Hoeflinger were in the same jewelry class and also had met socially.
"He was a really calm, cool, and collected guy, and really passionate about things he did," said Robert Grimm, 17, of Sylvania Township, said of the crash victim.
"He really liked golf and he was really smart. At school, he had great grades all around," added young Grimm, a junior at St. Francis de Sales High School. "When I saw a post on Facebook, I felt shock, disbelief, aphasia. I was speechless."
Mr. Hoeflinger played golf on the school's varsity team. In December, he finished 34th in the Division III state golf tournament.
"He was a nice guy, very funny. He made friends quickly. Everybody knew him," said Aidan McMurray, 15, a freshman at Ottawa Hills High, the third boy in the group.
A stream of visitors offering condolences went by Mr. Hoeflinger's family home on Inlands Court, about a mile's drive from the crash scene.
Cindy Hoeflinger said her son wanted to become a doctor, dreaming of attending the University of North Carolina and becoming an orthodontist.
"He was dedicated to his grades, to his academics," said Dr. Brian F. Hoeflinger, the crash victim's father, a local neurosurgeon. "He was an athlete and he loved sports."
Dr. Hoeflinger said his son had transferred to Ottawa Hills High in the fall from St. John's Jesuit High School, which he had attended for four years and where he had a 4.5 grade-point average. He was a straight-A student at Ottawa Hills, the father said.
"He loved his time at St. John's, but he felt he needed to try something new," Mrs. Hoeflinger said, fighting back tears as she added, "Everybody tells me how respectful he was."
A dance scheduled Saturday night at Ottawa Hills High was cancelled, and in its place a vigil for Mr. Hoeflinger was to be held at the school starting at 7 p.m.
The crash remained under investigation later Saturday by the highway patrol.