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What was supposed to be an evening of action-packed basketball at Pitman High School quickly turned into a night of tragedy on Friday, as beloved Turlock High School basketball coach Johnathan Williams died as a result of injuries sustained in a three-vehicle crash at the corner of West Christoffersen Parkway and Kilroy Avenue.
The collision took place at 4 p.m. in the middle of the fourth quarter of the Pride’s girls basketball game against Lodi during the Pitman Holiday Classic. The Bulldogs were slated to take on the Hughson Huskies at 5, where Williams would serve as assistant coach.
The Turlock Police Department responded to the incident. Eight individuals involved in the collision, including the 48-year-old Williams, were transported to local area hospitals. As Williams was being transported, the decision was quickly made by tournament organizers and coaches to cancel the scheduled game. Williams succumbed to his injuries later that night at the hospital.
The Turlock Police Department Major Accident Investigation Team (M.A.I.T.) investigated the collision for nearly four hours. They do not believe that alcohol or drugs were a factor in the collision.
“The Turlock High School and TUSD community is profoundly saddened by the loss of John Williams,” the Turlock Unified School District said in a statement. “John was a beloved basketball coach for over 20 years for the Bulldogs and touched the lives of countless athletes and their families. We are sending out thoughts and condolences to his family at this difficult time.”
“It was a truly tragic event,” added Turlock High School principal David Kline. “Our time will be spent in support of the family of Coach Williams and the athletes impacted by this heartbreaking situation.”
Williams, also known as “Big John,” is survived by his wife and five children. He was a longtime assistant for Turlock’s boys varsity basketball team alongside Doug Cornfoot. In 2019, he took the helm as the Bulldogs’ varsity girls head coach. He served in the position until midway through the 2020-21 season. Since then, he has served as an assistant for both Cornfoot and current girls head coach Erica Hernandez. At the 47th annual Frank Godinez Boys Basketball Tournament earlier this month, he served as interim head coach for the Bulldogs for the first two games as Cornfoot recovered from shoulder surgery.
In a social media post on Saturday, Cornfoot described Williams as his best friend.
Cornfoot and the Bulldogs were scheduled to play their final game of the Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic against Venture Academy at noon Saturday. That game was also canceled. Meanwhile, the Modesto Christian basketball program accepted cash donations for the Williams family at the gate of Anderson Gymnasium for the remainder of the tournament, which concluded Saturday night.
A GoFundMe has also been set up for the Williams family and can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/f/63pfs-john-williams?utm_campaign=p_cp%20share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer&fbclid=IwAR0pXMDzDcKMG-y4HgyUvVvT4AkyllJ6tJCP4VZ0DGQAxRNnRVu2wnvFS-k.
The Turlock Unified School District shared that counselors will be available when students and staff return from winter break on Jan. 8. They will also offer resources from Jessica’s House. For those needing support sooner, the district recommends students reach out to a trusted adult or contact the Crisis Text Line on the StopIt application that all students are encouraged to download on their devices.
The Turlock Police Department is asking for anyone who witnessed the collision or has video at the time of, or leading up to, the collision to contact Officer Fortado at (209)664-7399.