Coworkers, friends remember restaurant manager killed in overnight crash

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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WICHITA, Kan. -- In the minutes before the west Wichita Emerson Biggins opened Sunday morning, coworkers sat together as a family in an empty dining room.

They were all still in shock about what they had just learned.

"I just shot up out of bed and said this can't be real," Shelby Austin said.

"We all just saw him," Haylee Vickers said.

Several of them had helped their manager, Luis Lopez, close the business around 2 a.m. Sunday.

But they learned later Sunday morning that minutes after he left Emerson Biggins he was in a car accident that claimed his life.

"I don't think it's really hit any of us," Ashley Teter said.

Lopez, 26, was heading eastbound on Kellogg when he took the southbound I-235 ramp too fast causing his SUV to roll, Master Trooper Scott Koehn said. He was thrown from the vehicle and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Lopez is the son of the owners of Emerson Biggins. He served as a manager and bartender at the Emerson Biggins location in west Wichita.

Coworkers say they have never seen him or the owners as bosses. Rather, they say, they are treated like members of the family.

"We love the Lopez family more than anything," Austin said.

They say Luis is lovingly referred to as "Weezer." It's a nickname they say he was given for being so fast on the soccer field.

"Weezer is like a brother to every single one of us girls," Teter said.

"And, all the customers loved him," Vickers said.

The coworkers say they, of course, spent much of Sunday crying and mourning. But they say it's hard to stay sad for very long when thinking about Luis.

Soon, laughter was pouring through their tears as they remembered the man who was always smiling and who came up with great nicknames for everyone.

"He'd call me 'Mad Dog' and I'd say 'Weezer!'" Madison Ayala said.

They say his best quality was being able to brighten everyone's day just by being himself.

"He's just contagious with joy and happiness," Teter said. "No matter what your mood is, you're going to be in the same mood as him before long."

As they shared memories in that empty dining room Sunday morning, they say Weezer is still finding a way to cheer them up and bring them joy even now that he is gone.

"Just talking about him, thinking about how happy he is, makes me happy and makes me want to laugh," Teter said. "It makes me feel better to know that's what he would want us to do right now: just laugh and reminisce on the good times."

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