"We will miss him every day for the rest of our lives," Debbie Onorato said.
Police are still investigating the accident, which occurred just before 9 p.m., April 9, near the intersection of Wright Avenue, according to Mountain View police spokeswoman, Liz Wylie. Onorato, who was not carrying any ID, was not identified by the police until the following day. The driver, who is cooperating with the police, is not suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Wylie said.
Police are still seeking witnesses to the accident, although they located a key witness Tuesday, a woman who performed CPR on Onorato until emergency personnel arrived and took over. Despite their efforts, Onorato was pronounced dead at the scene.
On Wednesday morning, Onorato remained mostly composed as she recounted her son's virtues, hobbies and accomplishments.
"If it was outdoors, he was there," she said. "He loved boating, camping, fishing and hiking."
He was very mechanically inclined, she said. As a teenager he learned to take apart and rebuild a car. And when he was 15, on his very first flying lesson, Onorato managed to land the plane with virtually no assistance from the instructor.
"The pilot was floored," his mother recalled. "But it was just him. He just had this natural ability."
Besides earning a pilot's license and being a capable mechanic, Onorato showed an innate understanding of electronics and engineering at an early age, she said. In between building cars and impressing pilots, the teenage Onorato hacked a remote-control airplane, removing unnecessary components and installing a digital camera, which allowed him to take aerial snapshots of his native Mountain View.
With childhood friend, Brennan Lewis, in 2002 Onorato co-founded the Mountain View High School robotics team.
"Erik just had a real knack for being able to design and build things — using his hands as well as his brain," said Edward Lewis, Brennan's father.
Lewis, a former colonel with the California Air National Guard's 129th Rescue Wing, said that Onorato was a regular at his home, working with his son on cars, remote-control vehicles and computers.
"He was just a great kid and his loss was devastating to all of us," Lewis said.
He said that Erik had managed to carve out quite a name for himself in his short time. "Erik is one of those young men that you point them in a direction and he would get it."
College wasn't in the cards for Onorato — at least not immediately upon graduating from Mountain View High School. Still, thanks to a family friend and his aptitude for electronics, he was able to land a job with Space Systems Loral, a commercial satellite company based in Palo Alto. "Within three months he was being asked to work for three different departments," his mother said.
At the time of his death, Onorato was working toward a degree at DeVry University, his mother said.
A funeral service is planned for Saturday, April 14, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Spangler Mortuary, 799 Castro St., Mountain View.
He is survived by his parents, Debbie and Greg, and his two brothers, Ryan and Jarod.