Former “American Idol” contestant Rickey E. Smith Jr., 36, died Friday after the car he was driving was hit by a wrong-way driver, according to Oklahoma authorities.
Just after 3:10 a.m., Smith, of Oklahoma City, was driving east on I-240 when his car was struck by a pickup driving west in the eastbound lanes. Smith was pronounced dead at the scene, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported.
Smith appeared on “American Idol’s” second season in 2003, where he finished in eighth place. A former Southeast High School student, he lived off and on in Wichita during his childhood. He also lived in Texas, Los Angeles and Oklahoma.
Stacey Boyer, director of community relations for Midwest City-Del City public schools, said Smith had volunteered with vocal music programs in the Oklahoma school district since he graduated.
“It’s a very, very sad loss for the schools. He’s been helping kids for years; he volunteered this year. We’re saddened by this loss,” Boyer said.
Clay Aiken, a fellow contestant on the second season, expressed his sorrow on Twitter at the news of Smith’s death:
“I am truly heartbroken,” Aiken said. “I am heartbroken for myself and my ‘Idol’ friends who have lost the brightest and most joyful part of our little ‘family.’ I’m deeply heartbroken for Rickey’s true family: his parents and the loves of his life, Candy, Ali, and Ava, who have lost their light. And I’m heartbroken for everyone who never got a chance to know the most gentle soul I’ve ever known.”
Ruben Studdard, who won the second season, also posted on social media about Smith:
The driver of the pickup in the crash, Gerardo Cerda Jr., 27, of Oklahoma City, was treated for injuries at a hospital and released.
Lt. John Vincent said Cerda was detained until he provided a blood sample, but was not arrested. Vincent said troopers are still investigating and will present their findings to the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office to determine if charges will be brought against Cerda.
Contributing: Denise Neil of The Eagle