Update: Ooltewah fifth-grader killed in Alabama jet ski crash
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- Noah Wolfe's yard is perfect for pick-up football. But from now on, he and his friends will play without their quarterback and coach from across the cul de sac; 11-year-old Collin Dowler.
"He (Collin) would have playbooks," Noah says. "We played in my garage, we played football, all kinds of sports."
"The Dowlers were the first friends we made we moved here last summer," Noah's mother Tammy, says. "We weren't even through unloading the truck yet, when Collin was outside. And it was just perfect."
The Dowler family's Facebook pictures show they may be most at home on the water.
And on watercraft. Several show Collin and older brother Dillon, 15, riding together.
"When they played basketball, it was always them versus everybody else,' Collin's friend Kevin Zapata says. "They call it the brotherly love."
It all ended Tuesday morning.
"Our neighbors just started coming over here and saying Collin had died, Noah says. "Just heartbreaking," Tammy says.
Dillon and Collin had been riding a jet-ski at their grandparent's lake home in Cherokee County, Alabama. Dillon was driving. The watercraft crashed into a dock.
Collin was killed. Dillon has been airlifted to Erlanger, where he's listed in fair condition. "I was like, oh no, this can't be happening to my best friend," Kevin says. "And then, I started to cry a little bit."
Collin was a fifth grader at Wallace A. Smith Elementary in Ooltewah. His mother, Ann, teaches fifth grade there. Administrators will bring in counselors when students return from spring break next week.
Dillon Dowler is a sophomore at Ooltewah High School. "He's the smallest wrestler we have, but he's the hardest competitor," Coach Wendell Weathers tells Eyewitness News. "It's a shock. He's a great young man, and they (the Dowlers) are a fine family."
Spring Break means that Dillon's team-mates haven't been able to gather as a group, Weathers says, "but we're there for him. We know this will be long, and tough. You almost don't know what to say."
Noah Wolfe, 8, also finds it tough finding the words. "I want his Mom and Dad to know that I hope they feel better," he says. "I'm thinking about Dillon."
Alabama law requires that Collin undergo an autopsy because of his age and the circumstances of his death. Chattanooga Funeral Home, Valley View Chapel, will be handling his arrangements.
WRCB-TV is honoring his parents' request not to contact family members,
"We're here, willing to do whatever we can to help them put their lives back together," Tammy Wolfe says. And she worries for her son Noah, and the Dowler boys' other young friends.
"I don't think they've realized what's happened yet," she says. "You'll see a couple of them just kind of look at the house and kind of staring into space. I just don't believe they realize that Collin's gone."