A Peach County High School football player died in an accident near Byron on Saturday, while another is in critical condition.
Raekwon Smith, 18, died in the accident that happened about 8:30 p.m., Peach County Coroner Kerry Rooks said. Smith was pronounced dead at the scene.
Rooks said Smith was the driver of an SUV that lost control and flipped before landing in a ditch.
The Georgia State Patrol identified the passengers, also football players, as Eric Robinson, 17, Ejuan McKellar, 17 and Randolph Williams, 17, who was in critical condition.
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The accident happened on Moseley Road outside of Byron just north of Newell Road.
Georgia State Patrol Trooper Mark Smith worked the accident and was back at the scene Sunday afternoon doing further investigation. He said there was no sign that alcohol or drugs contributed to the accident. He had not determined yet whether speed was a factor.
He said Raekwon Smith was traveling toward Fort Valley on Moseley Road in a GMC Jimmy when the vehicle left the roadway and overturned several times. He said Smith was wearing a seat belt but was partially ejected. He said the force of the rollover caused the ejection despite the safety belt.
Williams was also ejected. Robinson suffered a concussion. Both were sent to the Medical Center, Navicent Health. McKellar had only minor injuries. Smith said one of the passengers told him they were all wearing safety belts.
Peach County School Board Member Jamie Johnson said the youths were returning from a pool party held for the team as a way to relax before the first game of the season this Friday. The game is against Houston County High School in Peach County.
Johnson said players held a meeting with coaches and counselors Sunday to discuss the tragedy. He said counselors will also be available to students at school Monday. He called Smith “a well-respected young man.”
“It’s going to be a tough loss for the community as well as the Trojan football team,” he said.
The senior football players had gathered at a pool in Byron for an annual senior get-together.
“We swam,” Peach County head coach Chad Campbell said. “Had a big time.”
Smith posted some video of some of the festivities on his Facebook page about three hours before the accident.
The event had ended and players departed.
“They left me and about 15 minutes later, I got a call,” Campbell said. “He just lost control. He went off and yanked it back and just lost control and flipped.”
Campbell then spent hours alternating between Macon and Fort Valley.
The community and program have been the recipient of an outpouring of support on social media.
Student Twitter feeds from Houston County, Veterans, and Perry high schools, among others, implored students of their schools to wear white Monday in Smith’s honor. Peach County students were also to wear white Monday.
There was a gathering at the school early Sunday evening, and Campbell said one is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday at Anderson Stadium.
A number of Twitter posts indicated that Monday’s ceremony would include a balloon release in Smith’s memory.
The team, coaching staff, chaplain Vic Hedgepeth and regional Fellowship of Christian Athletes director Tom Mobley, a former long-time coach at Warner Robins, met for about an hour late Sunday afternoon.
Campbell planned to visit Williams late Sunday, then possibly return to Fort Valley for the team’s Sunday dinner hosted by the booster club, and most likely return to the hospital.
Williams was penciled in as a starter on the defensive line. Robinson, who Campbell said suffered a concession in the accident, was expected to get some playing time. Mckellar is a backup wide receiver and defensive back.
Campbell said Smith played football as a ninth-grader, then didn’t play for two seasons before returning for this season.
“He was just a good kid,” Campbell said. “He wasn’t a starter or anything like that, but just a good kid. A quiet kid, very mannerable kid. All the kids liked him. He did anything you asked him to do.”