AUSTIN (KXAN) - Ryan Whittington loved tennis and was planning to teach at a tennis camp later this summer before a car crash early Sunday morning took his life.
"He was just that type of young man that everybody loved," said Ken McAllister, a friend and executive director of the United States Tennis Association -- where Whittington worked for several years. "A lot of us had become very close to him. Several of the staff that worked personally with him knew how conscientious, how bright he was, how smart he was. As he got to the office, the first person he would say hello to felt better. He was that type of young man."
McAllister said the USTA family -- along with many friends -- and Whittington's family, is mourning his death.
"It's very hard, very difficult to understand how someone like him can be taken away from us," said McAllister.
Whittington was the backseat passenger in a car that went into Lady Bird Lake early Sunday morning. Two Austin police officers saw the driver lose control and drive into the lake.
"They were sitting there typing a report, and a vehicle came around the corner, lost control of the vehicle and went straight into the water," said Senior Police Officer Craig Smith.
The officers were able to save two women in the car -- the driver and another passenger -- but Whittington was trapped inside. APD divers found the car 30 yards from the shore and pulled Whittington's body from the water.
The driver of the car, Madeline Rackley, has been charged with intoxication assault. A friend tells KXAN News Rackley and Whittington were old college friends from Texas State University.
Rackley has a previous arrest for DWI in 2009. She pleaded no contest to that charge. She currently works answering phones for an Austin bankruptcy attorney.
Whittington studied communications at Texas State University and worked at USTA in the competitive department.
"Ryan was potentially a leader, and it's a shame to lose a leader that cared about people and could still lead," said McAllister. "It made you really believe in the young people of today, and Ryan was a good example of that. And it's, like I said, we're pretty sad."
Whittington lived in San Marcos and grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas. Funeral arrangements are pending.
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Sub-freezing temperatures and an approaching upper level disturbance could combine to produce some patchy freezing drizzle or sleet Saturday and early Sunday morning.