The Mineral Wells community remains in mourning following the tragic loss Friday of one of its own.
Zach Elder, 21, died in Bryan late Friday afternoon following a three-car collision. His Jeep was hit, causing it to roll and eject him. The 2016 Mineral Wells High School graduate and Texas A&M University senior was pronounced dead at the scene.
His parents, Scott and Carol Elder, were at Mineral Wells High School to watch their youngest daughter, Allee, play volleyball when they received the call no parent wants.
"We were at the volleyball game when police called and said they needed to talk to us," said Scott Elder. "That is always your worst fear."
According to a Bryan police report, a van driving behind a Toyota, which had stopped to turn left into a shopping center, was traveling fast and slammed into the rear of the Toyota. That impact sent the Toyota into oncoming traffic, striking Zach Elder's vehicle.
Neither of the other drivers involved were injured, according to police. The van's driver was charged with speeding and not having a valid driver's license. Elder, who was headed home from school, was not wearing a seat belt.
"The detective told us it was a freak deal and that he didn't have a chance to act or respond," said Scott Elder.
Like his parents and siblings, Zach Elder was a Texas Aggie through and through. He was a petroleum engineering student, and he and his fellow Aggie Club of Engineers members were preparing for Saturday's home football game against Lamar.
"With Carol and I being Aggies, he started going to games when he was young," Scott Elder said. "I think I took him to his first game when he was 3 years old. We had season tickets. He loved going."
Zach – who played football, soccer and baseball for Mineral Wells – had a lifelong goal of going to Texas A&M.
"He was dyslexic and he had to work really hard at school," Scott Elder said. "He wanted to go to A&M and he set his sights on that. He excelled at math and sciences for sure."
Though his senior year at A&M had just begun, Zach Elder was already making plans for beyond college. He interned over the summer at an Austin engineering firm and was looking forward to his first job after graduation.
"He was in a good place," his father said. "He was doing well and happy. That gives us a lot of hope and joy for him."
It is a close-knit family that includes middle daughter Mia Elder, a freshman at Portland University. They took many trips together, typically each summer to Oregon to visit family there. The Elder children are active in sports, extra-curricular school activities and at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Zach, Mia and Allee also participated in youth and mission activities at First United Methodist Church.
The children all helped with the family business, Famous Water Company, the makers of Crazy Water.
"We had a family weekend before school started," Scott Elder said. "He was in town, and we went to the lake for the weekend. We got to have some family time. He adored his two sisters and was a great big brother to them."
Zach also was able to get in a visit over the summer in Oregon, where he loved the mountains for hiking and biking. Zach was born in Portland, Oregon, but the family soon after moved to Mineral Wells.
"We have a lot of family and friends in Oregon," Elder said. "Zach loved to be outside."
Elder said he will remember his son for his "kind soul," which is how his many friends will also remember him.
"Zach had a wide, wide array of friends," his father said. "We were talking to a lot of his friends this weekend and they were crestfallen. He didn't have any enemies. He had such a kind soul. I remember his smile and his kindness. He had a really smart, witty personality. He was very funny. He had a lot of one liners that he often sent my way. I was the butt of a lot of his jokes."
He said the family is appreciative of the outpouring of love and prayers they have received from friends and the community.
"We definitely have the food to show for that," Elder said. "It has been really nice. So many calls and texts and people visiting. We told everybody we lost him, but we loved him and it's good to know he was so loved by everyone."
He said Zach listed his intent to be an organ donor.
"As we keep telling each other we will help each other make it through the day. It's hard," said Elder.
A scholarship fund is being established at Community National Bank in Zach's honor.
There will be a visitation at 6 p.m. and rosary at 7 p.m. for Zach at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Mineral Wells on Wednesday, September 18. Funeral service is 11 a.m. at Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish, 16250 Old Weatherford Road, Aledo, TX 76008, on Thursday, September 19.