College student killed in crash on I-24 near Paducah


Credit: Ozark Christian College

LYON COUNTY, KY (WKRN) — A college student was killed when the 12-passenger van he was riding in was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler on I-24 in Lyon County, Kentucky.

Jace Smothers, 19, was a Christ in Youth MOVE summer Event Staff member and was traveling with other staffers when this happened Friday afternoon. Four other staffers were hurt and as of Saturday morning, one was in critical condition at TriStar Skyline Hospital in Nashville. The other three have been treated and released, according to a hospital spokesperson.

Kentucky State Police are investigating the crash involving 12 vehicles and say “inattention on behalf of the semi driver appears to be a contributing factor in the collision.”

According to KSP, the distracted semi-driver crashed into stopped traffic on I-24 east, causing a chain reaction. At this point in the investigation, KSP believes 22 people were involved and 13 people were taken to hospitals.

The interstate was closed until 6 a.m. Saturday while officers investigated and worked to clear the scene. The investigation is ongoing and at this point, KSP has not announced whether the semi driver will be charged.

Smothers was from Norton, Kansas and just completed his freshman year at Ozark Christian College (OCC) in Joplin, Missouri.

OCC’s President Matt Proctor says Smothers was a youth ministry major and volunteer with Young Life.

In a letter on OCC’s website, Proctor wrote about Smothers’ “huge heart for Jesus and teenagers.”

“Jace had just finished his freshman year at Ozark and loved his experience here. In a recent Instagram post, he wrote, ‘Study tip: Laminate your notes so the tears roll off. My first year of college was a dream! If I’m being honest…I was doubtful about God placing me at Ozark. But after classes started and I met these people…the entire game changed. God met me in a new way.’ We are grateful to have known Jace, but we grieve deeply his absence,” wrote Proctor.

Christ in Youth’s Vice President of Storytelling Eric Epperson says Smothers and the other staffers were on their way to an event in Cleveland, TN when this crash happened.

“While we cling to the promises of Jesus that we proclaim at our events, this is still a very bitter day. Jace exemplified every good quality of a Kingdom worker and he will be missed by many.”

Epperson and Proctor have asked for continued prayers for Smothers’ family and for the other students who were injured in the crash.

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