James Harris should have spent Thanksgiving Day at Cowboys Stadium watching football with his father.
But a deadly wreck involving what appears to be a wrong-way driver prevented him from ever making it home.
On Wednesday night, Harris headed back to Azle after finishing his shift at the Brookshire's grocery store in Lake Worth.
About 10:15, his Ford Mustang was struck by a Toyota Camry driven by 72-year-old Jake James of Lakeside in the 8100 block of Jacksboro Highway at Roadrunner Circle, just south of the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge. Both drivers died from their injuries.
"I hope nobody else ever goes through this," said his father James Harris Sr. of Azle. "It's a parent's worst nightmare."
Tarrant County sheriff's investigators are still working to determine the vehicles' directions and speeds, said Terry Grisham, a sheriff's spokesman.
"The gold Camry appeared to move from the inbound lane to the outbound lane. That is conjecture at this stage of the investigation," Grisham said.
"There was a tremendous impact. Both vehicles burst into flames."
One challenge facing investigators is the lack of eyewitnesses. Both vehicles were towed to the Sheriff's Department forensic garage for further investigation, Grisham said.
The Tarrant County medical examiner's office will conduct toxicology tests to determine whether alcohol was a factor, Grisham said.
Grisham wouldn't speculate about who was at fault, but James Harris Sr. was more direct.
"Somebody was driving the wrong way," he said, adding that it wasn't his son.
James Harris Sr. described his son as a "typical teenager" who was interested in cars, sports and girls.
"He was sometimes rebellious but never got into trouble," James Harris Sr. said.
"He liked sports, and then he got into driving and going over to his girlfriend's house."
The 17-year-old had planned to spend Thanksgiving at his girlfriend's, but she was grounded, so his father bought tickets to the Cowboys game.
"We were supposed to be there," James Harris Sr. said. "I got tickets, but now we're just sitting here talking with family, trying to understand how something like this could happen."
Like many other kids, James Harris Jr. had talked off and on about going to college. But he had already settled on a career.
"When he was a kid, he talked about being a football player -- he used to play football -- but in the last couple of years, it was all about being a police officer," his father said.
'So close to home'
James, an accomplished hairstylist, left his Lakeside home about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to meet a friend in downtown Fort Worth, said his wife, Rose James.
He was driving home when the accident happened. He apparently missed an exit and doubled back.
"Somehow or another, he ended up on the wrong side of the highway," Rose James said. "I'm just not sure how he did it. I'm still trying to figure it out. He was so close to home."
What made it all the more puzzling is James would drive all the way to Tyler and back every Monday to cut hair for customers who had stayed with him since he left the East Texas city seven years ago.
"I've just never seen him do anything like that," she said. "It's so out there. It just didn't seem like it was Jake."
Describing him as a giver who would do anything to help a friend, Rose James said Thanksgiving would have marked the seven-year anniversary of moving to Fort Worth.
James was profiled in a 2006 Star-Telegram story when he hoisted an old airplane atop an empty gas station along Montgomery Street across from the Cultural District and battled city code inspectors. He eventually complied with codes, and the plane stayed.
"To me, it's art, and I'm in an art-cultural district," James was quoted as saying.
He eventually sold the old Shamrock gas station and concentrated on fixing up his Lakeside home, where he would occasionally cut hair for close friends.
Staff writer Jessamy Brown contributed to this report.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698