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Whittier Christian High School football player Ethan Hawks, was critically injured Saturday when a flying piece of metal struck him as he was riding in a car, was pronounced dead early Thursday. COURTESY OF HUDL.COM

Whittier Christian's Ethan Hawks dies days after being struck by metal object on 57 freeway

La Habra teen dies days after being struck by metal object on 57 freeway

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Ethan Hawks was a defensive end on the Whittier Christian High football team.

Whittier Christian High School football defensive end Ethan Hawks, known for his determination and hard work, fought his way back from a severe leg injury to start for the football team this year.

On Thursday morning, however, his family and friends were saddened by the news that he had died just days after a freak accident in which he was hit by a 7- to 10-pound piece of metal that crashed through his mother’s car windshield as they were driving on the 57.

Hawks, a 17-year-old La Habra resident, had been put in a medically induced coma at UC Irvine Medical Center.

Around 2:30 p.m. Saturday, he was traveling south on the 57, south of Katella Avenue in Anaheim, in the front passenger seat of a Hyundai sedan driven by his mother, Kathleen Hawks, when the metal object either fell off a truck or was struck by another vehicle and launched into the air, California Highway Patrol Officer Florentino Olivera told the Register.

The metal sliced through Hawks’ neck. He died of his injuries early Thursday morning.

BOOM STICK

Hawks’ friends called him Boom Stick.

In a Twitter post Thursday titled “Thank you Boom Stick,” Whittier Christian High School quarterback Quinn Commans wrote, “Ethan, you were the craziest and happiest kid I’ve ever met and yet still couldn’t catch a break. It’s way too soon to see you go, but I wouldn’t want anyone else creating all the crazy memories, always asking about my day, reminding me how bad I was at football and most importantly telling me that you love me every single day. You wouldn’t stop hugging me until I said it back because you knew how much I hated being touched. I promise I will make you so proud.”

On Wednesday night, Hawks had a bad reaction to drugs, which caused heart issues. He was treated for septic shock before being stabilized, according to a GoFundMe account the school started after the accident to raise money to help the Hawks family.

“The Whittier Christian High School community is heavy-hearted today after losing Ethan Hawks to complications from the terrible accident that happened to him this last Saturday,” Whittier Christian Athletic Director Rolland Esslinger wrote Thursday afternoon in an email to the Register. “The Heralds stand in support of the Hawks family and will be there with them in the tough days, weeks and months ahead.

“Ethan fought hard and he was supported by an amazing family,” Esslinger wrote. “Ethan’s mom, dad, sister and uncle came alongside Ethan in such an incredible way. The doctors and nurses at the UCI Medical Center fought with Ethan every step of the way as well and are certainly appreciated for all they did for him.

“Ethan will always be remembered as a free-spirited young man who would not let anything stand in the way of him achieving his goals. Ethan came back from a gruesome leg injury suffered in his sophomore football season, to start and play every game on the defensive line for the Varsity Herald football team this season. His determination was amazing to watch. Most people thought he would never play again, but Ethan never wavered from his goal to come back! We will certainly miss Ethan, and we are thankful for the time we had with him.”

'TOUGH YOUNG MAN'

Last year, Hawks sustained a season-ending compound leg fracture during a game against Maranatha High School of Pasadena.

Many people believed Hawks, now a junior, would not play football after that injury. Instead, several months later he was practicing with teammates, said Sergio Gradilla, coach of the Heralds football team.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Ethan last year when he broke his leg,” Alison Thomas said on the family’s GoFundMe page.

“I remember walking in his room and we started talking and discovered that my son and Ethan played in the same league. We had so much fun talking about football and the league. He was so fun to talk to. He loved football. He loved his parents and his sister Sarah. He told me about the road trip that they had.

“I then saw Ethan when Heritage Christian played Whittier that year,” she added. “Ethan was in a wheelchair with his leg in a cast, encouraging his teammates the entire game. And then when we played this year I got to see him play the game that he loved so much. He was an amazing young man, and I was blessed to have met him. My heart is broken today.”

Friend and former schoolmate Brendon Bowden, 19, said Hawks was determined to get back on the gridiron.

“Rather than be on crutches he’d be working to walk with a cane instead and I’m pretty sure as soon as that cast was off he was back to weightlifting,” he said. “This past summer Ethan and I went on strenuous hikes and rock climbing and he would do incredibly well for what his leg had been through.”

Gradilla previously described Hawks as a “tough young man.” He was outgoing and he enjoyed making his teammates laugh, Gradilla said.

“He is always cracking jokes,” Gradilla said. “He just wants to have a great time with everybody.”

'OVERWHELMING RESPONSE'

Bowden said Hawks was tough but loved to show his sense of humor.

“He loved dinosaurs and one day he came to school in a dinosaur costume,” he said. He did it just to be Ethan.

Whittier Christian High School will have a gathering at Herald Hall at 3 p.m. Friday. Details on an official memorial service have not been announced.

“The overwhelming response of support for the Hawks family over the last few days is a testament to just how much Ethan was loved by his family and friends and how his story touched so many lives,” WCHS Head of School Carl Martinez said on the school’s Facebook page.

The school will have grief counselors and pastors on campus Monday.

“We are heartbroken for your loss. We are praying for all of you,” Margie Cramer wrote on Hawk’s GoFundMe page.

“Heartbroken over your loss. We will continue to pray that God helps you find comfort,” Camile Harris wrote.

Staff writers Keith Sharon, Scott Schwebke and Louis Casiano Jr. contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: hmadans@ocregister.com or Twitter: @HannahMadans


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