STONE COUNTY, Mo. - An Ozarks community is mourning the death of a well known teenager. Mason Weitzel, 17, was killed in a Stone County accident around 10:40 Tuesday night on Highway DD just south of Branson West.
A picture taken at the crash scene displays just how devastating the crash was for one of Weitzel’s classmates. The photo captured a life changing moment for Nathan Houston. Houston is seen standing in shock holding his helmet. “Part of me just wanted to run to the car,” Houston said. The high school senior is part of a cadet program training to be a firefighter. “We took off and everyone was trying to explain to me what I'd see when we got there,” Houston said.
Weitzel’s nearly unrecognizable car suddenly and unfortunately looked familiar. “I expected to see something like this but when we got there and I realized it was a good friend of mine I lost it,” Houston said. “I couldn't handle it.”
A decal on the car confirmed the worst. “I was prepared for it the best I could be when I realized it was a friend everything I prepared for went downhill,” Houston said. “That's one thing I never wanted to see was a friend of mine in that situation.”
Houston lost his football teammate and friend. Weitzel's car went off the road struck two trees and burst into flames. “It was wrapped around the tree. There was gas leaking and the gas kept igniting the fire,” Stone County Fire Protection District Public Information Officer Eric Nielsen said. “Unfortunately there was nothing we could have done even without the fire.”
The loss hit many Stone County firefighters hard. Another picture taken at the scene captured the brotherhood firefighters often talk about. The firefighters huddled together for a prayer. “Our chaplain came to the scene and talked to everybody,” Nielsen said. “This is a smaller community everybody is friends and family around here. At one point or another it affects everybody.”
The Missouri State Highway Patrol is investigating. It is unclear what caused Weitzel's car to go off the road. “Mason was just one of those cheerful boys that would do anything to make you happy,” Houston said. “He was extremely kind.” Even though the experience will stay with Houston forever he hasn’t given up on training. “It hurts but I still want to pursue being a firefighter,” Houston said.
The principal of Reeds Spring High School says Weitzel was an outstanding, charismatic young man. Weitzel had a 3.2 GPA and 98% attendance. The principal says Weitzel will be missed but never forgotten. His family members are still making funeral plans.
Here is a written statement provided by the Reeds Spring High School Principal:
Mason was an outstanding, charismatic young man. A good student and actively involved in activities. He had a GPA of 3.2 and 98% attendance. An example of what we would like our students to be; respectful and responsible. He constantly had a smile on his face and always in a good mood.
He was a member of our football and baseball teams as well as a strong supporter of our other sport programs. For our talent show he got out in front of our entire student body and did some sort of break dancing that the kids loved. He will be missed but not forgotten by everyone here at Reeds Spring as he touched so many lives with his smile.
To meet the needs and offer support for our students we had additional counseling support from other counselors within our district as well as from area youth ministers. We also brought in additional subs to free up some of our coaches to be available to assist our students; especially since Mason touched so many lives through his involvement with activities here at Reeds Spring High School.
-Steve Levingston, High School Principal