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Friends hold candlelight vigil to remember Durango High football player

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Rich Coleman

Friends of Donovan Smith attended a candlelight vigil Friday night at Durango High School, 7100 W. Dewey Drive. Smith died Thursday morning in an ambulance on the way to University Medical Center after he was found unconscious in a car he had been driving.

Donovan Smith vigil

KSNV coverage of candlelight vigil for Durango High School football player Donovan Smith, March 18, 2011.

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Donovan Smith

Accident location

A crowd of at least 100, candles in hand, stood on the Durango High School football field Friday night and huddled around a memorial with flowers, candles lined up to form No. 12 and packets of Kool-Aid for their departed friend Donovan Smith.

The emotion was palpable as they stood silent after a group prayer.

Then the quiet was broken by the voice of a single person who began to sing.

“Hey, hey, hey. Good bye,” one boy in the group sang.

Soon the crowd joined in and sang the notable refrain from “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” — a song often directed at rivals at sporting events but this night sang as a respectful farewell.

Students and teachers reminisced about Smith, a star running back and defensive end — No. 12, the kid who loved Kool-Aid and a friend to all who crossed his path.

Temore Aziz, Smith’s teammate, said Smith’s kindness and positive attitude stood out.

“I would be sitting here, waiting for a ride,” Aziz said, pointing to the benches near the school entrance, “and he’d be like, ‘Let’s go, dude. I’ll give you a ride. C’mon, let’s hang out.’ He was just nice like that.”

Smith died Thursday morning in an ambulance on the way to University Medical Center after he was found unconscious in a car he had been driving, Metro Police said.

A passerby called police after Smith’s car hit a wall near the intersection of Hacienda Avenue and Rainbow Boulevard about 9:25 a.m., police spokeswoman Barbara Morgan said.

Officials don’t believe Smith died as a result of the accident because the vehicle had only minor damage and Smith didn’t have any visible injuries, Morgan said.

Click to enlarge photo

Friends of Donovan Smith attended a candlelight vigil Friday night at Durango High School, 7100 W. Dewey Drive. Smith died Thursday morning in an ambulance on the way to University Medical Center after he was found unconscious in a car he had been driving.

The cause of death will not be known until the Clark County coroner finishes an autopsy that began Friday.

Smith was a mentor to younger players on his football team. Teammate Jeremiah Covington remembered his first practice, which was also his first encounter with Smith. He said Smith pushed him to his limits in the weight room.

“It was just me and him and he wouldn’t let me leave the weight room until I did a lot of sets with him,” Covington said. “It was the first time meeting him. After that, he became one of my best friends. He told me, ‘Don’t stop. Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll be great.’”

School volunteer and parent Toni Isaacs said Smith was a role model not only to his teammates but to all of his friends.

“The kids looked up to him. He made everybody feel comfortable and welcome. He gave them that extra strength to pull through and get through anything,” Isaacs said. “If you met Donovan, you would never forget him. He had an angelic soul.”

About 600 students were present on the field Friday morning, as well, to remember their friend.

“This is the ultimate tragedy to try to prepare somebody and not see them live up to their potential that we all know is in each and every one of you,” track coach Curtis Barker told the group.

Barker, who also serves as a counselor, expressed his condolences to the group but also used the moment to encourage students to lean on one another in times of strife.

“I wish I knew more about what was going on with Donovan in the last moments. But look at how many people are here to support Donovan now. If you’re on a self-destructive path, look at how many people could be helping you out if you just reach out and ask for help.”

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