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West coach killed in crash

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Remembered for dedication to kids

By Martin Salazar

A single-vehicle accident Sunday night claimed the life of a 35-year-old man who devoted his life to coaching students both on and off the field.

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Josh Garcia, West Las Vegas Middle School’s football coach, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, about 100 yards north of Louden, on the city’s northwest side, Las Vegas Police Chief Christian Montaño said.

“He was pinned in the vehicle, and it took about an hour to extricate him,” the chief added.

The cause of the accident has yet to be determined. An accident reconstructionist was called out to the scene, and investigators are trying to determine whether alcohol played a role in the crash. A toxicology report was pending, Montaño said.

He said Garcia was traveling north in a four-door Crown Victoria when he hit a guardrail. Police were dispatched to the scene at 9:37 p.m.

“It just appears that he lost control,” Montaño said. “At this time we haven’t determined if speed was a factor or anything else.”

Word of Garcia’s death spread quickly Monday morning, leaving students, coworkers and fellow coaches to mourn the loss.

“He was always laughing,” recalled Mary Lou Sanchez, the secretary at West Las Vegas Middle School. “He was nothing but laughter and smiling and happy, just a happy-go-lucky person.”

She said counselors spent Monday with the football players trying to help them deal with the loss.

Garcia had just taken over at the West Middle School football coach this fall. Over the summer he coached a youth girls softball team, the Rebels, which included players from both East and West and the surrounding communities. And this would have been his fourth year as the Mora softball coach. He also spent five years helping to coach the Mora football team.

Garcia played quarterback for the Las Vegas Outlaws and more recently the Las Vegas Rebels semi-pro/recreational football teams.

When he wasn’t coaching or playing, Garcia was working at TeamBuilders, a statewide children’s counseling service.

Sanchez said Monday was a difficult day for everyone at the school.

“He’s been working here with us for the past three years as a TeamBuilder,” she said, noting that Garcia’s father also works for the school district.

“Everybody just broke down,” Sanchez added.

Manuel Benavidez, a contractor who coached football with Garcia in Mora, noted that Garcia graduated from Robertson High School.

“He was a Cardinal, but the coaching was more important to him than the actual rivalry,” Benavidez said. “He just enjoyed being involved with the kids.”

Benavidez said Garcia was always trying to get the kids to do a little better, always pushing them as far as they could go.

“The most important thing to him besides his family was coaching and being around the kids and trying to help the kids,” Benavidez said. He said Garcia was a firm believer that one could make a difference in a kid’s life through athletics, and he said that was partly because of Garcia’s own experience.

“We weren’t student athletes, we were athletic students,” Benavidez said. “We stuck out high school because of sports, and we were both firm believers that sports graduate a lot of kids. That was one of his main things was trying to help the kids advance and to see them graduate. He always bragged about his kids and not himself.”

Garcia’s survivors include his wife, Roxanne Garcia, and stepdaughter, Kianna Gallegos.

Editors Note: The Optic’s Dave Kavanaugh contributed to this report.