ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WJLA) - He was just 19 years old, his whole life ahead of him, but Abel Ayele is now unexpectedly, tragically, gone.
"My jaw just dropped," said Mikias Mesfin, a family friend of Ayele's. "I couldn't believe it. My parents told me this morning and I just couldn't believe it."
Mesfin, a part of the same, tight-knit Ethiopian community as Mesfin, said Ayele loved soccer, music, and computers.
"He was a really, really good guy," Mesfin said. "A nice person. Nothing bad you could say about him."
The crash happened at 6:15 p.m. last night on I-81 south in Southwestern Virginia's Washington County. A tractor trailer got a flat tire and pulled off to the shoulder. The driver and passenger checked the problem, and then as they were walking to back to cab of the truck, a Toyota Avalon ran off the left side of the highway, over-corrected and slid sideways into the back of the tractor trailer.
The victims include: 19-year-old Abel Ayele of Arlington, 19-year-old Abenzer Thewdros, also of Arlington, and 25-year-old Alemu Ameha of Alexandria. The crash's lone survivor was 19-year-old Arketsadik Vilma of Alexandria, who is recovering at Bristol Regional Medical Center with serious injuries.
Ayele had started at Northern Virginia Community College's Alexandria Campus in the fall of 2011 and had just completed his spring semester last month. News of his death came as a shock to fellow students and to Northern Virginia's Ethiopian Community.
"It's very devastating really," Samson Teffera said. "Any time any accident or tragedy happens the community gathers together and tries to comfort each other."