Chuck Butterfield was on his way to work at a deli wholesale warehouse early Friday morning when he could see flashing lights and an accident with a red Taurus, just like his son Jacob's car, on Southwestern Boulevard in Hamburg.
He told himself it might be someone else's car, since there are "so many red Tauruses. I thought it was his car, but was hoping it wasn't," he said in an interview Saturday, and he continued on his way to work.
But when he got to J. Mills Distributing Co., where both he and his son worked, Butterfield noticed that Jacob's car was not in the parking lot, even though Jacob had left their house in Derby at 5:45 a.m., about three minutes before him. In fact, the two had joked about "racing" to work, since Jacob had a head start.
Butterfield immediately drove back to the scene of the accident.
"I was very anxious. I walked over to the officer, pointed to his car and asked if the driver was OK," Butterfield recalled. "He asked me if I was a witness. I said, 'No, I'm his Dad.' "
"The officer said, 'Sorry, but your son passed,' " Butterfield said.
Jacob's car had crossed over the double-yellow lines into oncoming traffic and collided head-on with another vehicle. The 18-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police allowed Butterfield to stay nearby, and he watched as responders removed Jacob from the wreckage.
"I didn't want to leave him on the side of the road," he tearfully told The News. "I wanted to say goodbye. I gave him a kiss, and told him I'm going to miss him, and that we love him."
Hamburg Town Police continue to investigate the crash, which occurred at about 6 a.m. The driver of the westbound vehicle was taken to Erie County Medical Center with what were believed to be non life-threatening injuries. Both drivers were the sole occupants in their cars.
Police refused to provide additional details Saturday or release the accident report. But the department said alcohol did not appear to be a contributing factor.
Jacob's father and mother, Kathy Mazur of Eden, think Jacob may have dozed off at the wheel. They said he did not drink or use drugs.
His sister, Stephanie Butterfield, said, "There were no brake marks and it was so early in the morning, that he probably fell asleep and passed through those lanes and had the head-on."
Jacob, who was the fourth of five children, had worked with his father at Mills Distributing on North Benzing Road in Orchard Park since he graduated from Lake Shore High School last June. The company is owned by John Mills, the county legislator from Orchard Park.
Stephanie described her brother as fun-loving and a fabulous uncle to his two nephews and two nieces.
"He was super funny. He was a really big goofball," Stephanie recalled. "He would always have the wittiest comments. They came out so fast you couldn't even respond."
His family said Jacob never left anything on a bad note and always made you smile.
"You could be in the worst mood, and he'd make you smile," his father said.
"This is the saddest day of my life. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy," he added. "He was a good kid. He should be here. He was one in a million. Irreplaceable."
He was glad that on Thursday night he had agreed to make Jacob his favorite meal – steak.
"I was like his hero when he was a little kid, because I made him steak," Butterfield recalled.
Also that same day, his son had kidded him at work and during last Sunday's Buffalo Bills game about a camping trip planned for Allegany State Park this summer, and how they had to remember to buy Kosher pickles, which Jacob liked.
"He loved camping and nature stuff, and walks in the woods," his mother added. "I just want the world to know how great he was."
"He was such a good baby, and was always very quiet until he met his girlfriend (Elizabeth Rose). She brought him out of his shell," Mazur said.
"They were like peas in a pod," Stephanie Butterfield said. "They were so perfect for each other and complemented each other so well."
Jacob also loved anything to do with science.
"He loved space so much. We'd talk about Elon Musk and all that he's doing. You could never keep up with him," sister Kelly Butterfield said of her brother.
Younger brother Jordan remembered fun times with his brother, how he loved his video games and how particular he was about certain things.
The Lake Shore Central School District had grief counselors available Friday and will again on Tuesday.
“We were shocked and saddened to hear of this tragic event,” said Lake Shore School Superintendent James Przepasniak. “Our deepest sympathies go out to the Butterfield family and their friends during this difficult time.”
A funeral service is planned for 10 a.m. Tuesday at Immaculate Conception Church, Eden.