Tyler Smith’s death left a hole not only in his family, but also in the church and the youth program in which he was active.
“He was just a super kid, and everybody loved him,” Parkway Baptist Church Youth Minister Jeffrey Harris said.
Tyler, 14, died Thursday after being hit by a pickup truck in front of his Hardy McManus Road home. Tyler was sitting on his go-kart at the end of the driveway when a truck, driven by Kenneth Earl Gill, 59, of North Augusta, veered off the road and hit Tyler.
“I guess that’s the saddest part,” Harris said, “he was such an outstanding young man. That’s what makes it so hard for everybody. They are going to miss him.”
Harris said Tyler attended Greenbrier High School until he wanted to become home-schooled about two weeks before his death.
The teen, Harris said, was intelligent, caring, tender, conscientious, funny, playful, athletic, faithful and knowledgeable beyond his years.
“He was only 14, but he seemed so much more mature,” Harris said. “He was already a good man at 14 years old.”
He enjoyed being outdoors hunting, fishing and playing sports.
Tyler is the second of five children and looked after his siblings.
Just before the wreck, Tyler pushed his 6-year-old brother, Jonathan, back toward the house, likely saving the boy’s life. He sustained only minor injuries.
Tyler had a presence, but not only because of his 6-foot-4-inch tall frame. He’d just moved up to the high school class of the youth ministry and was almost instantly a leader within the group.
Parkway Baptist pastor, the Rev. Russell Davis said Tyler was “a lovely and vibrant personality,” who joined the church with his family just after Davis took over as pastor about four years ago. He said Tyler blossomed right along with the church’s congregation during the time since.
“He was one of those kids that just really excelled at whatever he put his hands to,” Davis said. “He just had it. He was one of those kids, he just had it.”
Davis led a memorial service for Tyler Sunday at Parkway Baptist. Tyler’s family laid him to rest in a cemetery in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Monday.
Gill, who authorities suspect was distracted by his cell phone at the time of the wreck, was charged with was arrested first degree vehicular homicide, reckless driving, failure to maintain lane and driver to exercise due care, proper use of radios and mobile telephones.
He was booked and released from the Columbia County Detention Center on a $13,300 bond, according to jail records.
Tyler’s family is hoping that their son, even in death, will have a large effect on those around him.
“(Tyler’s parents) really wanted people to understand that they aren’t bitter. ... They are not bitter against the driver of the vehicle that hit him,’ Harris said after attending the memorial on Sunday.
“They don’t want Tyler’s death to be in vain. They want it to point people to Christ.”