A Denton teenager died Saturday in a one-vehicle accident in Belton, a city along Interstate 35 between Austin and Waco.
Gentry Nelson, 16, was heading home after spending vacation time with his father and two brothers in the Austin area, said his mother, Angela Nelson.
Gentry Nelson was driving north on I-35 in Belton at about 3:40 p.m. when he lost control and hit a pillar, said Paul Romer, a spokesman for the Belton Police Department.
When Nelson's 2005 Ford F150 pickup hit a pillar where I-35 and Interstate 14 merge, the truck burst into flames. He was pronounced dead at the scene, Romer said.
The accident is still under investigation, so Nelson's speed and driving behavior have not been confirmed, Romer said. His body is awaiting an autopsy at the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office.
"He had a passion for basketball and a very special love for his friends. He was funny and full of life — life was to be lived and loved," Angela Nelson said in a statement to the Denton Record-Chronicle. "He was a delight to be around and helped to make our home a joyful place to be."
A GoFundMe page to help the Nelson family more than tripled its goal of $5,000 within 24 hours with the help of more than 100 people and families.
Nelson was a student at Denton Calvary Academy, a private school with about 300 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. He was preparing to start his junior year Aug. 14.
While at Denton Calvary, Nelson was active on the school's basketball team and was planning to also add football to his schedule this fall. He also participated in the jazz choir and sacred choir. This spring, both choirs earned superior ratings at the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools state contest.
Kirk Armstrong, a family friend who is helping the Nelson family, said funeral arrangements have not yet been made. He described Nelson as a loving brother, avid hunter and fisher, and kind to those he encountered.
"I know who he was as a young man and a person, and he was one of the finest young men I’ve ever known," Armstrong said.
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889.