Hearts ache in Edgefield County after wreck claims 16-year-old athlete
EDGEFIELD, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - An Edgefield County traffic accident has claimed the life of a beloved 16-year-old baseball player at Strom Thurmond High School.
Ryan White died Monday at an Augusta hospital of injuries suffered in Saturday night’s crash just over 2½ miles north of Trenton, according to the Edgefield County Coroner’s Office.
Adding to the heartache: His mother is the one who found his crashed truck and called authorities when she’d gone looking for him after curfew.
“As a parent, this is your worst nightmare to have something like this happen,” said Gregg Yonce, assistant baseball coach at the school. “Here at Strom Thurmond High School, we love our students, and we’re doing everything we can to be there for them. But I can’t tell you how many students have come by and checked on me and Ryan’s other teachers.”
Ryan played outfield and pitcher on the school’s junior varsity team and was expected to compete for the varsity team this season.
“I’ll be honest, a whole lot of people are hurting right now at the school and in this community. Ryan White was just such a breath of fresh air. Always had a huge smile on his face and just loved life especially if he was outdoors hunting and fishing or playing baseball,” Yonce said.
The crash occurred at 10:31 p.m. Saturday on Egghouse Road near Woodyard Road, according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol.
A westbound 2002 Ford Ranger driven by Ryan, the only occupant, went off the right side of Egghouse, the patrol reported. White overcorrected, then the vehicle went off the left side of the road and hit a tree.
He was extricated from the truck, then was flown to a hospital by helicopter. He was not wearing seat belt, according to the patrol.
The crash remains under investigation.
Facebook feeds of Edgefield County residents are flooded with messages of mourning after Ryan’s passing.
“Ryan was a competitor. You can see it in his eyes,” the high school baseball program wrote in a Facebook post. “He loved the game, his family, and his teammates. His loving spirit will live in our hearts and memories forever. Rest In Peace Ryan. We love you and will always miss you.”
Edgefield First Baptist Church posted photos on Facebook of a candlelight vigil that was held for him over the weekend as he struggled to recover. Other photos posted online showed scores of mourners in a vigil for him at Children’s Hospital of Georgia.
He’s being remembered in the local baseball community for his dedication to Edgefield County and his volunteer spirit.
“Ryan possessed the most infectious smile to ever grace Field 1 in Edgefield,” said a Facebook post from Edgefield County Youth Baseball.
“Ryan was a hard worker who understood what it took to be successful between the white lines. More importantly, he was a good person.”
The Game Day CSRA sports page on Facebook saluted Ryan for choosing to be an organ donor.
“If you Coach youth baseball long enough, and you’re blessed enough, you will possibly one day encounter a player like Ryan White. You know that kid, the one with the big smile pasted on his face?” John L. Brown Jr. wrote on Facebook. “Tonight I am heartbroken as I try and recall each time I was fortunate enough to see that smile come through the gates of Field 1 in Edgefield.”
He added later in the post: “Ryan fought hard, just like we knew he would. Just like we had all seen him do on the baseball field. Tonight he rests in the arms of our Heavenly Father and our EC family is devastated.”
Yonce remembers that through determination, Ryan not only made himself a better player, but also drove his teammates to perform better.
“Ryan absolutely loved baseball, and he loved playing for our school. He played so hard all the time and was always looking to get better. I can still hear him say, ‘Hit me one more coach! Hit it where I have to dive for it!’” Yonce said.
“His teammates saw his determination, and it made them push harder, too.”
How to help
Ryan’s sister said there will be a memorial kickball game at 1 p.m. Saturday at the school’s baseball fields. Cost is $10 per player, and a donation bucket will be passed around. All proceeds will go to Ryan’s family.
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