At 11 years old, Paul Patino had sensitivity beyond his years, his mother
and teacher recalled Wednesday.
After learning in school about the high incidence of heart disease among
adults, Paul vowed to become a heart surgeon, Jeannette Patino said.
"He said there were too many people dying from heart attacks," she said.
He also wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and become a pastor.
Paul's father, also named Paul, serves as a youth minister at an Inglewood
church, Patino said.
But an accident related to Tuesday's freak rain storm took the Riverside
boy's life and washed away his dreams. Paul and his father were traveling on
Highway 62 in Joshua Tree when their car hit a pocket of water on the
roadway, causing it to skid into the path of a pickup, officials reported.
The pickup broadsided the Patinos' Acura, killing the boy. His father
suffered massive head injuries and remained hospitalized Wednesday at Desert
Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. Jeannette Patino said her husband
was in a coma.
Patino said her husband works as an independent contractor for UPS and was
making deliveries in the desert. Her son, wanting to spend time with his
father, went along for the ride.
Paul often wrote essays chronicling the business trips he took with his dad,
said Valencia Stanley, a sixth-grade teacher at Rehoboth Charter Academy.
Paul Patino recently graduated from the Riverside charter school and was the
valedictorian. He was set to begin seventh grade at Gage Middle School
"I told him on graduation day, `You are going to be something fabulous,
something out of this world someday,' " Stanley said by phone as she fought
back tears. "He was extraordinary, extremely gifted."
He took on the responsibility of tutoring classmates who had difficulty with
math, Paul's favorite subject.
Patino and her family gathered at their home Wednesday, remembering little
Paul and praying for his father's recovery.
Jeannette Patino, who has three other children, broke down in tears as she
gazed at a picture of Paul on his graduation day -- handsome in a black suit
with his arms stuffed with so many awards that he could hardly hold them
Paul's aunt, Jacqueline Estrada, recalled how excited her nephew was about
her wedding, which had been set for Saturday.
"I was supposed to get married this Saturday," Estrada said as she wiped
tears from her eyes.
"He wanted to be there," she said, adding, "He wanted to wear a white suit
to my wedding."