South Haven senior killed in crash had ‘contagious’ smile

An undated courtesy photo of Devon Smiley.

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — A South Haven High School student who died in a car crash was remembered Sunday for his big smile and bright personality.

Devon Smiley, 17, was a senior, according to South Haven Public Schools. He played quarterback on the varsity football team and was named homecoming king this year.

“It’s really sad that he’s gone, because you’d never think that this would happen to a kid like him,” friend and classmate Winter Ellis said.

Smiley was true to his name, his friends said.

“He always had this big smile that just like took up the whole half of his face,” Ellis continued. “And it was contagious. You saw his smile and you smiled right away.”

“Always his smile,” agreed childhood friend Martece Wright. “Like he had one of the biggest smiles.”

An undated photo of Devon Smiley courtesy Facebook.
(An undated courtesy photo of Devon Smiley.

To honor their friend, balloons with yellow smiley faces were put up at the high school Sunday, along with a line of signs at the entrance bearing messages to Devon — or Devo, as his friends called him.

In addition to football, Smiley was on the wrestling team and worked on the yearbook.

“He was involved in everything, so you couldn’t get away from Devo,” said Ellis.

When he wasn’t participating in some activity, he was helping others.

“He always used to play catch with me,” 8-year-old Zacorious Tanner said.

“After almost every practice. And he was always inspiring, helped us and played games with us and stuff,” added Zacorious’ brother,12-year-old Jaden Hollist.

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After giving so much, Smiley’s life was taken away Sunday morning.

The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office says a deputy found Smiley in his car around 1:20 a.m. after it crashed into a tree. He had sustained “serious injuries.” Emergency medical responders were dispatched, but Smiley died at the scene.

The crash happened in the 1200 block of Blue Star Highway, south of Creekwood Drive in Ganges Township. That’s north of South Haven and just south of the community of Glenn.

It is believed Smiley was heading home from a Halloween party at the time of the crash. He was the only person inside the car.

The cause of the crash is unknown, but the sheriff’s office says alcohol and speed do not appear to have been factors.

A memorial for Devon Smiley at the scene of the crash. (Nov, 1, 2015)
(A memorial for Devon Smiley at the scene of the crash.)

“He really just tried to make people’s day better,” Ellis said. “He definitely did that to everybody — teachers, staff, students, underclassmen, upperclassmen. It didn’t matter who you were, you loved Devo.”

South Haven Public Schools Superintendent Robert Herrera released this statement Sunday:

“It is with my deepest regret that I report Devon Smiley lost his life in a car accident. Tomorrow our students and faculty will receive grief counseling supports based on their level of need. Please keep our school community in your thoughts and prayers as we manage through this tragic loss.”

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