In less than two months Fernando Campos-Cruz would have been 16 and old enough to have a driver's license. But he did not wait that long.
Early Sunday morning, the 15-year-old Green Sea Floyds High School student took his parent's Ford Escort and died in a one-car crash about five minutes away from his home.
Fernando, of Nichols, was driving on Long Swamp Branch Road, when his car left the road, hit a ditch and rolled over several times. He was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle, said Lance Cpl. Sonny Collins of the S.C. Highway Patrol.
Fernando died from internal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene at 8:30 a.m., said Horry County Coroner Robert Edge.
While their parents and siblings went to visit family in Wilson, Fernando and his 14-year-old brother Rodrigo Campos-Cruz stayed home, a few blocks away from their aunt's house. Rodrigo said he believes Fernando was on his way to visit his girlfriend early Sunday morning. Fernando left about 3 a.m. despite his brother's protests.
"I had a feeling like something was going to happen," said Rodrigo. "I took the keys from him and said he couldn't go. He called my dad and asked to take the car and my father said 'No' and for him to go to sleep. He asked me for money for gas, and I told him I wouldn't give it to him."
Rodrigo said when he went into his room to get something and came back out, Fernando was gone.
It wasn't until six hours later that Rodrigo and his family would learn what became of Fernando.
"When they told me, I was sad," he said. "I'm going to miss him."
He remembers a brother who loved to go out on Saturdays to dance, whose nickname was "Pelon," a Spanish word that means bald. He said Fernando liked to cut his hair twice a week.
Fernando's favorite music was Duranguense, said his aunt Marisol Aranda. Duranguense is a fast-paced style of Mexican music that originated in Durango, Mexico, and was later popularized in Chicago.
"I was like 'Oh, my God,'" said Aranda, when she heard the news. "He was the one who would joke with everybody and make us laugh."
Funeral arrangements are pending at Hardwick Funeral Home in Loris.
Fernando is the second Green Sea Floyds High School student to die in an vehicle wreck in a week.
Jessica Harrelson, 14, died instantly about 7:27 p.m. Wednesday when a dump truck ran into the rear end of the car in which she was a back-seat passenger. The wreck happened on S.C. 9 Bypass, about two miles south of Loris, officials said.
Fernando's death marks the 69th road death in Horry County, surpassing last year's record. In 2006, there were 62 fatal accidents in Horry County.