The Cal Poly freshman who died Friday, before being found on campus in a parked car containing poisonous gas, was described by friends and former teachers as a caring friend, a bright student, and a strong athlete in water polo and swimming.
While one friend who spoke with The Tribune was aware Osvaldo Julian Ponce had battled depression, another described him as an outwardly happy teen and a caring friend adding she wished hed reached out for help.
Cal Poly Police Department investigators havent officially determined the reason for the 19-year-olds death. But police say they dont think foul play was a factor. No results from the autopsy have been released, according to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriffs Office.
Authorities found homemade signs placed in the Lexus where Ponce was found inside with closed windows. The signs warned people of the hazardous gases, which officials later determined to be hydrogen sulfide.
The physics major was known to friends and family as Osi.
I will definitely remember that he always just wanted people to love and show affection for each other, said friend Jesse Pozgay. I remember in one of his bouts of depression, he said, I just wish that people hugged more.
Pozgay said Ponce was always just looking for acceptance and always provided a shoulder when you needed one.
Pozgay recalled that Ponce once drove a stranger to the emergency room. He didnt even know this girl, Pozgay said. He was always thinking of others.
Ponce attended Woodrow Wilson Classical High School in Long Beach, impressing his former physics teacher.
I have met very few young people who have been so open, self-confident and friendly, Lee OConnor said. He was always in a good mood with high spirits and some would say a goofy smile that we all loved. The Osi I knew was simply not the young man in that car.
OConnor said Ponce was an attentive, responsible student who performed well in his honors physics class and as a lab aide. He was not the sort who stressed over his grades.
Ponce declared physics as his major at Cal Poly. But he had been taking general education classes when he died, Cal Poly officials said. It was also the last day of finals in his second quarter at the university.
OConnor said hed be surprised had Ponce struggled with university-level academics because he had a bright, agile, logical mind.
Like OConnor, high school friend Elana Young described Ponce as an outwardly positive person.
He had the tendency to crack crazy jokes and would always find a way to brighten someones day, Young said. I will remember him as a caring friend.
Young also said she will remember Ponce as a community-oriented person who participated in animal adoption and beach cleanup volunteer projects.
But she wished Ponce had spoken out for help, she wrote on a Facebook page that memorializes him, saying she missed him greatly.
You had so many people who cared for you, she wrote. Im just sorry you had to miss the rest of what surely would have been an amazing life.
Ponces high school water polo coach, Antone Martinho, expressed his sympathies to Ponces family, who visited Cal Poly this week to mourn the loss, according to university officials.
Martinho described Ponce as a gifted athlete, strong physical player, great shooter who participated four years in the sport.
The coach remembered his big smile, easygoing personality and great influence to his peers with his dedication to academics and loyalty to his friends.