Lucas Makana Riley — a 24-year-old Kauai native, ministry volunteer, and artist — was killed over the weekend by an alleged drunken driver in San Diego.
A fire erupted after the crash, engulfing Riley’s Mini Cooper and burning him beyond recognition about 7 p.m. Saturday, according to his family.
Riley’s mother, Tami, of Kalaheo, said she was devastated by the crash, but hoped to bring attention to the problem of drunk driving.
She said her youngest child “could change the atmosphere in a room by him coming in with his smile.
“He just always wanted to make people laugh,” she said by phone from Arizona, where she was visiting her daughter.
Riley was driving on State Route 67 when an oncoming pickup crossed the center line and hit a Buick sedan, then smashed head-on into Riley’s car, channel 7 in San Diego reported. Riley died at the scene.
The Buick driver sustained minor injuries, and the driver of the truck, a 51-year-old man, was taken to a hospital with a broken wrist.
The driver of the truck was arrested on alcohol-related charges and vehicular manslaughter, the TV station reported. Officials said they found beer cans inside the truck.
Riley, a 2010 Kauai High School graduate, left the islands to attend Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego and graduated last year with an art education degree. He was planning to marry his fiance, Shawna Wickwire, on Oct. 10.
Lucas was working as a full-time volunteer with a local ministry, City of Refuge San Diego, helping to feed the homeless and talking with drug addicts trying to recover.
“He always loved people no matter what you looked like, who you hung out with,” his older sister, Lauren, said. “Since he was little he was the one who would always befriend someone who didn’t have any friends or who was alone.”
She added that he was a strong believer in the Christian faith.
Recently, Riley worked on a permanent public art piece commissioned by San Diego that is on display and won “best in show” for an art project at Point Loma his senior year.
The school said in a statement that Riley was a talented sculptor and the chief assistant to PLNU art professor David Adey in the public art piece.
In the statement, Adey said Riley was a hardworking, “kind and gentle soul who will be greatly missed.”
Riley’s mother said the family was receiving an outpouring of support from friends around the world and especially from Kalaheo Elementary School, where she works as a health aid.
Riley was also athletic and played varsity soccer and volleyball in high school. But his passion was helping children and volunteering, having grown up traveling with his parents who are part-time missionaries.
“He was the one that really made it part of his lifestyle,” his mother said.
Besides his mother and sister, Riley is survived by his brother Cory and father Mark.
Services are pending in San Diego and on Kauai.