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Phoenix grad killed while changing tire in Atlanta

Phoenix High School graduate David Wesley, 20, was struck by a vehicle and killed Wednesday while changing a tire along an interstate near Atlanta, police said.

Wesley was struck near his car on the right shoulder of the I-285 north exit ramp to I-85 and died at the scene, according to DeKalb County police. The driver of the car that struck Wesley was 21, but no further information has been released. The investigation is ongoing, police said.

Wesley, who graduated from Phoenix High School in 2014, had been living in Georgia with his girlfriend, Sarina Ivory. He was reportedly driving to Starbucks, where he worked, around 5:30 a.m. when he got a flat tire and pulled over to change it.

Wesley and Ivory met at a music camp in summer 2013 at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Wesley had been accepted to the college but was taking a couple of years off to save up for school, according to his close friend and bandmate Darby Upsenky, 18, of Ashland.

"I went into shock and kind of denied it," Upensky said of the news. "It seemed unable to happen. Seeing (Wesley) get so far and then being gone, it didn't seem possible. He had too many big things left to do."

Upensky has known Wesley since the sixth grade and watched him develop as a musician in the marching band, symphonic band and jazz band, in which he played primarily saxophone.

"It was fun to know him as a friend as well as a musician," Upensky said, recalling late-night jam sessions with Wesley. "He was a leader amongst the band, one of the strongest players. He went the extra mile. ... When the band struggled, he was first to step up."

Wesley's band director at Phoenix High, Mike DeRoest, said Wesley returned for a visit last August and helped out with the high school marching band camp for a few days.

"I got to see him develop as a musician and a young man. He always gave of himself to help other students," said DeRoest, who had known Wesley since the young man was in middle school. "What sticks out the most is his passion for music and his love of life. He was a happy and excited student and always ready to play."   

Wesley won the Louis Armstrong jazz award in his senior year of high school, a national award given to outstanding high school students in recognition of their achievements in music.

A memorial for Wesley is planned, with details yet to be announced. The family is accepting donations in lieu of flowers to assist with the costs of bringing Wesley's body back to Oregon, as well as for the David Wesley Foundation, which the family founded Wednesday to provide scholarships for music students.

Leone Holden, a certified public accountant setting up the foundation, said she knew Wesley personally.

"David was a pretty talented musician and was accepted to Berklee College of Music, and that's very expensive," Holden said. "(His mother) wishes she could've sent her son to that school, so she wanted to help send other kids."

Holden, whose daughter knew Wesley from band, remembered seeing his enthusiasm and spirit at a competition in Napa in fall 2013.

"I have this memory of him at competition, getting up in front of the bandmates and doing chants and cheers," she said.

DeRoest said Wesley's energy and ability to inspire others, whether in a competition or in becoming better musicians, was typical for the young musician.

"It's pretty devastating. It breaks the hearts of a lot of students, past and present," DeRoest said.

For Upensky, what comes to mind most is Wesley's true-to-self spirit. 

"He was known so well for just being him — not for being something, but for being David Wesley."

Donations can be made on the foundation's Facebook page, www.facebook.com/DavidWesleyFoundation/, or by check made out to the David Wesley Foundation. To help the family directly, checks can be made out to Wesley's mother, Kelli Salnardi (spelling corrected), and brought to Holden's office at 457 Bear Creek Drive, Phoenix.

For more information, call 541-512-1625 or email info@davidwesleyfoundation.org.

Reach reporting intern Hannah Golden at hgolden@mailtribune.com.

David Wesley. Facebook photo