It was a call Garrett Graves never thought he would receive.
“It was super unreal. I was like, ‘Tyler Neilson, what? There’s no way. You’re mixing something up. There’s no way,'” Graves said.
Graves had known Neilson since he was 5 years old. Both of them played football together at Nevada Union High School for the final time as seniors this year.
“Man, I’ve got a lot of memories of Tyler,” Graves told FOX40.
Nielson was traveling with family and friends to the coast for spring break when the car he was riding in was hit by 21-year-old Sabrina Distura on Interstate 5 near Los Banos just before noon on Sunday. The California Highway Patrol says Distura was driving under the influence.
Sophomore Justin Gardner was also in the car and died at the hospital.
“Both of them just illuminated people’s lives and both of them touched so many people and their presence,” Nevada Union teacher and football coach Brad Sparks said. “They were great young men.”
A third student broke his hip in the accident.
Members of the Nevada Union football team gathered Sunday night to remember Nielsen and Gardner, who both played big roles on the team.
“I think right now we're all just trying to stay up and take this in and figure out what to do next,” Graves said.
“It’s unbelievable," Sparks said. "It’s one of those things you keep thinking is a dream and you’re going to wake up and you’re going to see them.”
For Graves, the hardest part is not having been able to say goodbye to his close friend, who he last saw on Friday.
“It’s rough thinking that that is the last time I’m ever going to see him and that I’ll never get that chance to say bye or anything like that,” Graves said.