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SWAU Alum, American Idol Finalist, Killed in Crash



By Ashley Rose/Reporter, Cleburne Times-Review

A Southwestern Adventist University alum and former American Idol finalist, Rickey E. Smith Jr., was killed Friday morning [May 6] in a car crash in Oklahoma, according to Variety. Smith, who reached the final eight of season two of the popular singing competition, was 36 years old.


Rickey E. Smith Jr., a Southwestern Adventist University alum, sings with the University Singers at "A Night at the Myerson" in Dallas, Texas, in 2009.
Photo courtesy of Southwestern Adventist University


Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Paul Timmons said 27-year-old Gerardo Cerda Jr. was traveling in a pickup truck headed westbound in the eastbound lanes and slammed head-on into Smith’s vehicle.At about 3:15 a.m., Smith was involved in a multi-car, wrong-way collision on Interstate 240 outside Oklahoma city, according to Variety.   

Smith died on the scene with multiple blunt force injuries, according to the Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.  

Cerda was treated for injuries at a hospital and released. He now faces DUI charges.

SWAU Director of Public Relations and Marketing Darcy Force said Smith was known for his “infectious smile, friendly greetings and his amazing voice.”

“He could be heard singing across the campus daily as he walked to and from classes,” Force said. “Students remember him as a kind soul who befriended everyone, truly embodying the spirit of Southwestern Adventist University. His joy for life and willingness to always share his musical talent was much appreciated by the faculty and student body.

Force said Smith last attended SWAU in 2009.

“I had the privilege to know Rickey well. He was in several of my classes and would light up the room when he came in,” SWAU religion professor Bill Kilgore said. “He was always involved in music and worship and he never met a stranger. What a powerful and beautiful voice he had, and a warm and friendly personality. He left us with so many beautiful memories. Another life cut tragically short.”

Force said Smith temporarily left the campus when he competed during season two of American Idol in 2003.

“Faculty and students alike would convene in the Wharton Auditorium to watch Smith perform on the show and cheer him on,” Force said. “He returned to campus to attend classes, and later to visit and sing at sports games and worships. His vibrant attitude toward life will be greatly missed.”


— This article was used with permission.

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