Ryan Folsom is shown with his wife, Lauren, and two sons. [Photo by Ashleigh Cropper]

Wrong-way crash kills former North Medford star athlete

A 29-year-old former North Medford star athlete was killed Sunday in a head-on collision on Interstate 5 near Anderson, California, by a wrong-way driver who police said may have been suicidal at the time.

Ryan J. Folsom, a budding physician and former football player and wrestler for the Black Tornado, leaves behind two young sons and his wife, Lauren, who is expecting their third child this month.

Folsom was driving a southbound 2012 Honda Accord in the right lane at 12:15 p.m. when it was struck head-on by a northbound Chevrolet Impala driven by Grace Elizabeth Ward, 28, of Red Bluff, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Folsom's car came to rest after sliding down an embankment, the CHP reported. He was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Ward suffered a broken leg and was taken to Mercy Medical Center in Redding for treatment, according to the CHP.

The CHP said preliminary reports indicate Ward "may have been suicidal at the time," but CHP Sgt. Greg Ross declined to elaborate, saying the case remains under investigation.

"That's definitely something we're looking into and we're interviewing a lot of witnesses," Ross said.

Ross said Ward remained hospitalized Monday with substantial injuries and that investigators were keeping "in close contact" with her. There were no arrests yet in the case as of Monday evening, Ross said.

"Obviously, there's a lot of interest in this case," Ross said.

Folsom was a football and wrestling star at North Medford High School, garnering all-state honors in both sports before moving on to Brigham Young University, said Ian Cropper, a longtime friend.

"He was one of those guys who could crush things on a football field but he was a gentle, caring guy to hang out with," Cropper said.

Folsom starred at running back and linebacker before graduating from North Medford in 2006.

He set the school’s single-season rushing record of 1,743 yards in 2005. He was a second-team all-state running back and, the following summer, played linebacker in the Les Schwab Bowl.

Rod Rumrey was Folsom’s football coach and remembers a quiet, confident leader who out-worked everyone.

“Ninety percent of that leadership was by example,” said Rumrey, who spent much of Monday talking with former coaches and others close to Folsom, including Folsom’s parents. “He didn’t have to say much, but when he did, I mean, everybody listened.”

After every game, Folsom addressed his teammates, said Rumrey, encouraging them to stay clear of bad situations and “don’t screw up.”

Folsom’s senior year was also Rumrey’s final season at North Medford.

“He was a great young man, not only on the field but more so off the field,” said Rumrey. “What a real valuable member of our community he could have been. I just wish he could have had that opportunity.”

Folsom was a running back for the BYU Cougars in 2007 and 2010-11. His 74-yard run against Colorado State in 2010 is the eighth-longest in school history, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Several associates of Folsom at BYU expressed their sadness over the loss on social media Monday. "Heart breaking news," wrote Vic So'oto, who was a defensive linebacker for the Cougars during Folsom's time there. "Ryan never had a bad day. He was always happy and worked his ass off. The Folsom family will be in our thoughts and prayers."

"Ryan was one of the most positive people I've ever met, would do anything for anyone," wrote fellow Cougar Reed Hornung. "He worked hard in everything he did. He will be missed, thoughts and prayers are with the Folsom family."

For the past three years, Folsom had been attending medical school in San Antonio, Texas, Cropper said. In the past month, however, he and his family relocated to Medford, where they were recently living with family members while Folsom interviewed for a residency stint at hospitals across the country, Cropper said.

Folsom was on a trip for a hospital interview in Sacramento when the crash occurred, Cropper said.

Cropper said Folsom loved his family and did well in both sports and academia because people wanted to work with and be around him.

"He made people feel welcomed and invited," Cropper said. "He lifted people around him."

Cropper started a GoFundMe page for Folsom, who Cropper said left behind a young family saddled with medical-school debt. The fund, widely shared on social media, had raised $104,299 of a $150,000 goal as of Monday evening.

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or Follow him on Twitter at



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