Accident victim 'lifted up the lives of so many'


Charles Theophilus Derwin of Portola Valley -- Charlie to those who knew him -- was in his final year of studies at the University of San Francisco and working toward a career in teaching at the time of his death, his mother Maryann Moise Derwin said.

Hip hop -- both writing and performing -- was one of Mr. Derwin's avocations, as was basketball as a player and as a coach, said Ms. Derwin, the recently elected mayor of Portola Valley.

Mr. Derwin, 23, was killed in a solo car crash on Portola Road early Sunday morning, Dec. 27.

Charlie Derwin "was generous to a fault and devoted to social justice," his mother said in an email. "He had a unique wit, he was thoughtful, kind, sensitive, a deep philosophical thinker and beloved by his friends."

He attended Portola Valley schools for his first eight years, at Ormondale Elementary and Corte Madera Middle School, and graduated from high school at the private Stansbury Academy in Magna, Utah, his mother said.

His friends described him as genuine, and someone who had a profound influence on their lives, Ms. Derwin said.

"Charlie is a one-of-a-kind human being," said his friend Sahil Khanna in a letter to Ms. Derwin, which she quoted from in her email to the Almanac. "Frankly he's the most interesting person I ever encountered in my life. Unbelievably talented, nonsensically modest, and an inner complexity that you only encounter in history books. He's such a rare individual and I will forever cherish the amazing times that I had with him and the impact that he had on the person I am today."

Comfort from Mr. Derwin's friends, relatives and the Portola Valley community "has helped to blunt the pain and reminded me of the innate goodness of people," Ms. Derwin said. "I have also seen Charlie through the eyes of his friends and heard story after story of the amazing impact he has had on their lives. So while I know the hole in my heart will never quite heal, I take solace in the knowledge that in his short 23 years, he lifted up the lives of so many."

The accident

After receiving a 911 call on Sunday at about 12:20 a.m. from a resident who reported hearing a collision, firefighters from the Portola Valley station arrived minutes later to find a vehicle engulfed in flames and sitting in the middle of the road in the vicinity of the mini mall at 884 Portola Road, Battalion Chief Kevin Butler said.

"Fire crews quickly extinguished the fire but were unable to save the driver, who had succumbed to injuries from the accident," Fire Marshal Denise Enea said in statement. Seven firefighters and a battalion chief responded to the incident, she said.

Medics pronounced Mr. Derwin dead at the scene, Mr. Butler said. Mr. Derwin was the car's only occupant.

A team from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office is investigating the accident, said Deputy Salvador Zuno of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

Initial examination of the scene led investigators to characterize the accident as a high-impact collision involving a tree and a road sign, resulting in severe damage to the front end of the car, Ms. Enea said.

In addition to firefighters and sheriff's deputies, agencies responding to the scene included the county Coroner's Office and town's Public Works Department, Mr. Butler said. Firefighters were on the scene until about 5 a.m., he said.


Mr. Derwin is survived by his mother; his father, Douglas Derwin of San Francisco; his brother, Will Derwin of Washington, D.C.; his uncles, Dan Derwin of San Francisco and George Vanderhoof of Sacramento; his aunt, Nanno Geller of Sacramento; and many cousins.

A memorial service is being planned, Ms. Derwin said.

See earlier story here.


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