A St. John's Jesuit High School senior who died in an auto crash this weekend, just weeks before graduation, had planned to study to become a theology teacher, school officials said Monday.
Jacob Fritsch, 17, came from a family deeply entwined with St. John's: He was the brother, son, and nephew of alumni, as well as the son of a former employee. He died Sunday when the car he was driving crashed head-on with a tractor-trailer, which then burst into flames, on U.S. 20 in eastern Fulton County.
Graduation for the St. John's senior class is scheduled for May 24. School staff members, who held Masses to honor young Fritsch and help the school mourn, said the boy's death at a time meant to mark a new chapter in his life was especially hard to swallow.
"They are ready to celebrate graduation," school principal Brad Bonham said of Fritsch's fellow seniors. "To have this hit like this is very difficult."
St. John's seniors are in the second week of their three-week senior project -- where they shadow someone in a career of their interest -- so young Fritsch's classmates were scattered around the city Monday morning. The school held a Mass of remembrance in the morning for the community and a special Mass at 5:30 p.m. for the senior class.
St. John's president Fr. Joaquin Martinez said the teen was an honor student and had attended the school since seventh grade. He did Christian service work, played basketball, and bowled. He was spending his senior project shadowing teachers at Holy Trinity Elementary in Assumption because he was hoping to be a theology teacher, said both Fr. Martinez and Mr. Bonham.
School officials described him as a quiet boy who kept to himself but also was very kind.
The two school officials said they knew the Fritsch youth had been accepted by five colleges but did not immediately know what school he had chosen. He and his family's strong involvement in the school may have inspired the teen in his career path, the officials said. His mother previously worked at St. John's Jesuit Academy.
Counselors were available for students if needed. After the morning Mass, students met in small groups for open dialogue about what happened and what they felt.
"It seems a little bit surreal for many of them," Mr. Bonham said.
Young Fritsch, of the Swanton area, was driving west on U.S. 20, just west of State Rt. 109, when his car went left of center and struck an eastbound rig driven by Daniel Schmahl, 43, of Plymouth, Wis., according to the Ohio Highway Patrol. Both vehicles went off the north side of the road, and the truck caught fire as a result of the crash. Flames destroyed the cab, according to the patrol.
The teen was pronounced dead at the scene in Royalton Township, southwest of Lyons.
Both drivers wore seat belts. The semi driver, who was able to get out of the cab on his own, was not injured, according to the patrol. The tractor was pulling a full trailer, but it was not immediately known what the trailer was hauling.
The crash occurred shortly after 11:50 p.m. on Sunday night. School officials did not know where young Fritsch was going at the time of the crash. Although the incident was still under investigation and authorities are awaiting a coroner's report, state patrol investigators don't believe alcohol was a factor in the crash.
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: email@example.com or 419-724-6086.