K-150 accident victim leaves behind a legacy of helping
Soccer player was studying for a career helping others
Steve Smith of Spring Hill got the call Saturday no parent ever wants to get.
His 22-year-old daughter, Brooke, had been killed in an accident in Marion County on K-150 just east of Yarrow Rd.
An Emporia State senior majoring in psychology, with plans to go to graduate school, Brooke Smith was on the way to Lindsborg to surprise her younger brother Brad, a running back on the Bethany College football team.
“Two weeks ago we went to watch her brother play football and we were all there and we got pictures with her and Brad,” Steve Smith said Monday.
Her brother Garret also was on the trip.
“They were in the back seat just cutting up and playing,” Steve’s wife Angela said. “Garret was like her baby.”
Brooke Smith was alone Saturday, driving west on K-150 at about 8:15 p.m. when a 2008 Cadillac SUV driven by 15-year-old Avery Stalford of Richmond inexplicably crossed the center line and collided head on with her 2002 Nissan SUV.
Both cars went into the north ditch, where the Nissan overturned. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Firefighters and ambulance crew members worked to free Stalford from the wreckage. He and a passenger, 36-year-old Jessica Stalford, were taken by ambulance to Via Christi – St. Francis in Wichita.
The game Brad Smith was to play in was postponed due to weather. He and Brooke’s mother, Cindy Smith, became worried.
“Brad and Cindy were trying to get hold of me,” Steve Smith said. “She hadn’t shown up and it wasn’t like her.”
After finding out she was dead, Brad made a difficult decision to pay tribute to his only sister through the football game rescheduled for Sunday.
“My son played anyway, in her honor,” Steve Smith said. “He felt he needed to do that.”
Angela Smith said the response was overwhelming.
“My sister has a really close friend whose son also goes to Bethany,” she said. “She said all the players and spectators were supporting Brad 100 percent.”
Not even 48 hours after the accident, Steve and Angela Smith could hardly believe the outpouring of support they were receiving, too.
“That’s the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen,” Steve Smith said. “I’m getting people message me that I’m barely familiar with their names. I heard from a kid at school who was lonely who wanted to tell me that Brooke introduced them to friends and changed their life.”
Brooke was passionate about soccer, Steve said, picking it up as a 5-year-old and turning that into college scholarships to play at two community colleges and two four-year schools, including Emporia State.
She also ran cross-country at Spring Hill High School.
“Her coach said Brooke was the kid who did the run, and if she would finish at the front she would run back to the person in the back and finish it with them,” Angela said.
Brooke wanted to get a graduate degree in psychology and use it to work in a nonprofit setting helping people, a recurring theme throughout her life, her father said.
“She honestly cared more about everyone else and how they felt than about herself,” Steve said. “If it had to be an inconvenience to take care of somebody, it had to be inconvenience. Her mission was to find the loneliest kid in the room and make a friend.”
The Smiths also have learned things about Brooke they didn’t know.
“We found out today she was actually training for a marathon,” Steve said. “She was learning to play the ukelele. We knew some things, but there were so many pieces of Brooke she shared with people that not one person knew the whole person.”
Composed while they were talking about Brooke, the Smiths knew that could change in an instant.
“It’s minute by minute, to tell you the truth,” Steve said.
But the couple is thankful for the time they had with her.
“She was just an amazing young lady,” Angela said. “She touched everyone.”
(Editor’s note: Emergency dispatches recorded by the newspaper indicated Smith had been ejected from her vehicle, as reported in the print version of this story. Emergency responders present at the accident have subsequently reported Smith was found in her car and was not ejected. The online version of the story has been updated to reflect this.)