Friday, April 06, 2012

Fellow Pulaski County students mourn victim of crash on I-81

Cameron Fitzwater of Pulaski County High School had planned to become a biology teacher in Colorado.

Cameron Fitzwater

Cameron Fitzwater

The 18-year-old student killed in a crash Wednesday was liked by his peers and had plans to move west after graduation.

Cameron Fitzwater, a senior at Pulaski County High School, was driving a Mazda Miata convertible northbound on Interstate 81 in Pulaski County when he ran off the left side of the road, went up an embankment and struck a tree, state police have said.

His car overturned north of Claytor Lake near mile marker 101.

His father, Jon Fitzwater, said Cameron's ultimate goal was to teach biology in Colorado. First, he was going to transfer his job at Panera Bread to a Panera restaurant in Illinois. He had a plan to work for there for a year, establish residency and then attend college.

"He was already trying to get things set up," Jon Fitzwater said.

Students were shaken Thursday by his death, Pulaski County High School Principal Michael Myers said.

"Kids are really hurting and we've brought in counselors to help with that," Myers said. "It's really been a tragedy and a loss for our community."

Cameron Fitzwater was active in the school and community, Myers said, as a member of the school's wrestling team, the Virginia Governor's School, and in the school's music and drama departments.

The school canceled this season's play, set to debut today, because Fitzwater was the lead role, Myers said.

Though Myers is a new principal, he said Fitzwater had already made an impression on him.

"Cameron was the kind of kid you couldn't help but get to know. He had that kind of personality," Myers said.

Pulaski County Deputy Superintendent Tom Brewster also said Fitzwater had a "very engaging personality."

He said he first met Fitzwater when Fitzwater was in middle school. He said Fitzwater delivered newspapers to the central office.

"He liked to come in, talk and ask questions," Brewster said. "He was easy to talk to."

Students quickly set up a memorial for Fitzwater in the school's wrestling room, allowing people the chance to sign a sheet and leave their condolences.

Jon Fitzwater said his son had a "smile that lit up the room" and felt at home outdoors.

He read an excerpt from his son's Facebook page.

"I love the outdoors more than anything else in this world. It allows me to find peace in the middle of turmoil. If I could be hiking, climbing or kayaking I would be doing so right now," Fitzwater read.

"That says it all about Cameron," he said.

His son was an Eagle Scout for all intents and purposes, having passed all requirements, but had yet to receive the distinction in a ceremony, Fitzwater said.

Jon Fitzwater said his son was close to his two brothers, sister, parents and stepparents.

People in the community took to social media when news of Fitzwater's death broke. Numerous Facebook and Twitter posts were made in his honor.

"Still feeling numb. RIP Cameron Fitzwater I will remember you and this day forever," one tweet sent Wednesday read.

"My heart is aching for the Fitzwater family this morning, all Cameron's friends & classmates. R.I.P. Cameron," read a Facebook post Thursday.

"He was very well liked," Jon Fitzwater said. "He liked peace. He liked fun. He liked to enjoy life."

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