AMERICAN FORK, Utah -- A community is mourning the loss of a teen they called a role model of genuine kindness.
Keaton Smith, 17, passed away Friday evening, almost a week after he was involved in a rollover crash in Pleasant Grove.
Smith had been on a group date with friends prior to his high school's Sadie Hawkins Dance Saturday, November 18th. Police said the crash involved two vehicles, one of which may have made an improper turn near 530 West and 1100 North. Keaton was a passenger and he was not wearing a seat belt. He was ejected from the vehicle and suffered a brain injury, which ultimately killed him.
That night, students stopped their dance for a moment of silence, then walked out to the center of the football field to say a prayer aloud for Keaton. Many of his fellow American Fork High School Football teammates visited him in the hospital throughout the week.
“You know as a bunch of guys who - we’re rough and don’t always have our heads screwed on straight, it really sobered us and made us realize how fragile life is and how much we need to love and take care of our loved ones and each other," said friend and teammate James Vanderbeek.
“It’s shocking and I’m still in shock with it. I wish it could have happened differently," said Jordan Harward, who was at the scene and watched paramedics work on Keaton.
A vigil in the high school gym took place just 24 hours after Keaton's passing. His parents and siblings were there, thankful for all the support they have received.
“He was happy. He was kind. He was caring. He loved so deeply and he loved everyone," said Kirk Smith, Keaton's father. He said his son was recently putting a lot of effort into considering what he wanted to do with his life. As a high school senior, Keaton was trying to figure out what he wanted his path to be. Kirk said some things were still uncertain, but Keaton for sure had one big goal.
“'Dad, I want to make a difference somehow. Somehow I want to make a difference,'" Kirk recalled his son saying. "And it really kind of sucks that this is the way that he’s making a difference.”
Students and friends at the vigil said they plan to live their lives in a way that would honor Keaton's memory.
“Knowing that Keaton made such an impact and knowing that if I live like Keat and care for people that his name will live on," Harward said.
“Remember to wear your seat belt," Vanderbeek said. "I know I always don’t, but now I do and I always make sure my family members do. But also tell your parents you love them all the time.”
Counselors will be at the school Monday through Friday for students and faculty members. Keaton will also be laid to rest sometime next week.