SAN ANTONIO – Two days before Sunday’s fatal crash that took his friend’s life, Matt Kress said he offered Ryan Folsom a handshake to say goodbye and good luck with his upcoming trip to Northern California.
“He told me, ‘Brothers don’t shake hands. Brothers hug,’” Kress said. “He came up to me and embraced me and then he went out the door.”
It would be the last time Kress saw Folsom.
A fourth-year medical student in San Antonio, Folsom, 29, had an interview for a hospital residency when a wrong-way driver slammed head-on into Folsom’s car.
In its preliminary report, California Highway Patrol wrote the other driver “may have been suicidal at the time,” but the investigation isn’t over.
The woman, traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 near Redding, Calif., survived.
Upon hearing the news, Kress, who is studying anesthesiology at UT Health’s Long Medical School, said he initially felt “complete shock and utter disbelief that someone so special, so perfect, really could have been taken from us in such a rapid fashion.”
Since then, Kress said he’s experienced “enormous grief and unbearable sadness.”
Kress and two other students who knew Folsom well fought back tears as they sat together, remembering their friend and colleague.
“He was the epitome of who you’d want for a doctor,” Seth Cope said. “He might not even know you, but he loved and cared for you.”
Like Cope, Folsom had studied for years, planning to become an orthopedic surgeon. Cope said he and Folsom were “in the same boat.”
When he and Folsom first arrived in San Antonio with their wives, Cope said, “We instantly formed a connection, basically becoming a family here.”
Both their wives are expecting babies due between now and next month. Folsom leaves behind two little boys, and his wife, who is bearing their third child.
“I just hope they grow up knowing what a tremendous person he was,” said Ben Larsen, who is studying family medicine. “It’s really hard to think that they will not get to know what a wonderful father that they had.”
All three described Folsom as dedicated and caring.
“He was the first to smile and the first to make people laugh and always the first to volunteer,” Kress said.
“Even after hearing everything that’s happened, I feel like he’s still affecting my life in making me want to be a better person," Larsen said.
They said friends and strangers alike have been contributing to a GoFundMe account for Folsom’s family, and tributes are being planned at the medical school.