2013-08-29 / Community

Car accident on S. Westlake Boulevard claims life of TOHS student-athlete

By Anna Bitong


Austin Evans 
Talented athlete Austin Evans Talented athlete Police are still trying to determine what caused a 17-year-old driver to crash into a telephone pole in Thousand Oaks last week, killing the student-athlete and injuring his passenger.

Austin Evans, who would have been a senior at Thousand Oaks High School this year, was driving north on S. Westlake Boulevard around 4:20 p.m. Aug. 20 when his car veered off the road and ran into a pole north of Carlisle Canyon, according to the Thousand Oaks Police Department.

Both Austin and his 17-year-old male passenger, who were wearing seat belts, were treated for their injuries at Los Robles Hospital. Austin died at 12:30 p.m. the next day, Aug. 21, from complications of blunt force injury to the head, said Craig Stevens, senior deputy medical examiner.

The surviving teen “is doing a lot better,” TOPD Dep. Mike Berg told the Acorn this week.

Berg said police are speaking to another driver who witnessed the crash. The investigation could take several weeks. Police are looking into every possible cause, including whether Austin was speeding or if “outside conditions,” such as “something blocking the road,” may have led to the accident.

Anyone who saw the crash is asked to call the Thousand Oaks Traffic Bureau at (805) 494-8271.

Austin learned to pole vault his freshman year at Thousand Oaks High and quickly showed his athletic talent, said TOHS coach Kevin Burnett.

“He had never pole vaulted before, as most freshmen haven’t,” Burnett said. “He said he wanted to try. I proceeded to take him through the beginning drills. I could tell within the first 20 minutes that he was going to be somebody really good. He had strength, flexibility and coordination.”

About a month later, Austin showed up to practice with a cast on his right arm after he fractured his right wrist playing basketball. The injury kept him off the field for three weeks. When he came back, he jumped 9 feet, which is “very good for a new pole vaulter,” Burnett said.

His sophomore year, Austin made even greater progress, jumping up to 13 feet in practice.

“That’s pretty phenomenal,” his coach said. “He was an extremely gifted athlete.”

Burnett described Austin as courteous, quiet, respectful, serious and inquisitive.

“He accepted criticism really well. He remembered all the information that I was giving to him. He would take that information and turn it into a successful jump.”

At the end of his sophomore year, Austin was named the freshman/ sophomore standout at the track team’s awards banquet.

“He came back after a horrible injury. I told him that I named him the comeback kid,” Burnett said.

Austin took a break from pole vaulting last year to concentrate on schoolwork but planned to return this year.

Burnett said he was thrilled to hear Austin was coming back. The coach remembers standing next to Austin’s mom during one of his last pole vaulting competitions as her son got ready to jump. The action unfolded in slow motion, the coach said.

“When he was running down the runway and he took off, I told his mom, ‘He’s got this,’” Burnett said. “Sure enough, he made it. I watched him going over the crossbar and free-falling down to the mat. I could see him pump his fists in the air because he made it. . . . He had a huge smile from ear to ear. Everyone was screaming and yelling his name.”

TOHS Principal Lou Lichtl said students grieving Austin’s death have received support from the community, school staff and counselors.

“We opened school today. It was a great, exciting day, but at the same time there was a sense of loss,” Lichtl told the Acorn Wednesday. “Our job is to support (Austin’s) family and the student body. Today a lot of students were glad to see each other so they could support each other.”

The principal said Austin was a “fine young man and a good citizen.”

“He was goal-oriented. He knew where he was headed, and he was achieving at a high rate,” the principal said. “I’m very proud to say that he was a good classmate, a good friend and will be very wellremembered.”

A memorial service for Austin will be held at 1 p.m. Sat., Sept. 7 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1600 Erbes Road, in Thousand Oaks.

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