"He'll forever be in our hearts and forever will be remembered. I know Colton would have been right by my side if this happened to anyone else, and I'm so glad that he was in my life."
-Mark Johnston, Colton's best friend
It was a somber day at Western High School in Parma, as students and staff remembered a student who died over the weekend.
Colton Aukerman was a junior at Western and had just gotten his driver's license. The 16-year-old died after crashing his car into a tree in Spring Arbor Township early Sunday morning.
The school brought in extra counselors and clergy to speak with anyone who needed to grieve.
"We lost a brother, but we gained a family," Colton's best friend Mark Johnston said.
Johnston and Colton grew up together, and now the entire WHS family has come together to celebrate his life. Everyone wore blue in Colton's honor and painted a tribute on the rock outside the school.
"Blue was his favorite color," Johnston said. "It was the color of his favorite team, the Yankees."
Colton played baseball at Western, but his friends say he was better known for his personality.
"His laugh was very loud and everyone will remember that, and school will never be the same because he brought such a joyful attitude and he definitely changed this school dramatically," Johnston said.
Colton's impact on the school is easy to see. Handwritten notes with personal messages and drawings overflow from his locker onto the hallway, and it's hitting the staff hard, too.
"He just had a way of uplifting all the kids in the class," Colton's economics teacher Derek Huntley said. "If we were struggling through concepts, he'd find a way to kind of find a way to make people understand it better. So, he was just a great kid."
Now it's up to police to try to understand what happened around 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning to cause such a tragedy.
"Inexperience is what I believe was part of the issue, and there was some speed there in which we feel he lost control of his vehicle," Michigan State Police Jackson Post Lt. Jamie Corona said.
Colton was driving a Chevy Camaro on a gravel road when he struck the tree on the driver side. He only had his license for a few months, and now a memorial stands where the accident happened on Cox Road.
"He'll forever be in our hearts and forever will be remembered," Johnston said. "I know Colton would have been right by my side if this happened to anyone else, and I'm so glad that he was in my life."
Police do not believe alcohol was a factor. They also don't think Colton was texting or on his phone at the time.
Investigators are going over the accident reconstruction and examining the car today for more evidence, hoping they'll find more clues about exactly what happened.
Visitation is planned for tomorrow, and the funeral is scheduled for Wednesday at the Community Arts Center.