American Idol finalist Rickey Smith has died in an Oklahoma car crash. He was 36.
Smith was traveling on the I-240 freeway outside of Oklahoma City just after 3 a.m. when another driver, identified by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol as Gerardo Cerda Jr., collided head-on with Smith’s Honda Accord. Cerda, 27, who was traveling west in the eastbound lane in a GMC pickup truck, was treated at a local hospital following the crash. He was taken into custody after members of the patrol detected an odor of alcohol in Cerda’s truck.
Both Smith and Cerda were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash, which remains under investigation.
“Suffice it to say my heart is truly breaking today,” Aiken Tweeted Friday afternoon. “Heaven’s choir has a new beautiful voice. I love you and will miss you, Rickey.”
“…I sit here in utter disbelief about the fact that you went to be with the Lord. I think back on all the fun times we had. How we set up for hours in our room in the Idol mansion talking and listening to music. How much fun we all had on our very first tour,” Studdard reminisced on Instagram.
“You were the heart of our season and the true definition of a real friend. I will miss you my friend RIP Ricky Smith. I’m sure you’re in heaven singing your heart out!!!”
On Saturday he added, “Man I just can’t seem to stop thinking about my homie. This is a tuff one right here…”
Writes Caldwell, “My heart is broken that we lost my dear angel Rickey. He was one-of-kind. I have never met anyone that could brighten your world like he did. I was so fortunate to share the time we had together on Idol and on tour. I will cherish those memories. He made everyone around him feel so special and loved and my heart sincerely goes out to his family. He was a shining light and he will be missed tremendously. #season2″
“Terribly #sad today,” Locke Tweeted. “The American Idol family has suffered a great loss. #RIPRickeySmith”
After his time on Idol, the singer stayed in Los Angeles in hopes of launching a music career.
“I almost had an album,” Smith previously told USA Today in 2008. “I had some good people around me.”
Though Smith didn’t tackle the music industry like he would’ve liked to, he admitted that he had moved on … reluctantly.
“I wasn’t ready to accept the fact that I had to come back and give up music,” Smith said. “I’ve made peace with it, but it’s still frustrating.”
A memorial fund has been established for Smith.