American Idol's Rickey Smith Passes Away After Car Crash With Suspected Drunk Driver

By Dorri Olds 05/09/16

A pickup truck traveling in the wrong direction collided head-on with the American Idol finalist's car early Friday morning. 

American Idol's Rickey Smith Passes Away After Car Crash With Suspected Drunk Driver
Photo TJ21 Media Group/YouTube

This year, we’ve mourned the losses of so many beloved singers: David Bowie, Prince, Natalie Cole, Maurice White, Merle Haggard, Vanity, and the list goes on. Now the world says goodbye to the lesser-known, yet notably talented Rickey Smith, a finalist on American Idol’s second season.

The 36-year-old was killed early Friday morning, NewsOK reported. Gerardo Cerda, Jr., 27, had rammed into Smith’s Honda Accord head on. Cerda, who was driving a pickup truck, was going the wrong way on I-240 near Oklahoma City.

Police on the scene said Cerda, who survived the accident, smelled of alcohol. Cerda was treated at a local hospital and then placed under arrest. Blood test results will determine if this is yet another case of a drunk driving fatality.

Many of Smith’s co-stars paid tribute to him on social media. 

Clay Aiken tweeted: I know he’s already singing loudly in Heaven and waking up the other angels with his beautiful voice #rickeysmith

Ruben Studdard wrote on Instagram: As 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…. You were the heart of our season and the true definition of a real friend…. I will miss you …. I’m sure you’re in heaven singing [your] heart out!!!

Idol season 6 finalist Melinda Doolittle told Fred Bronson of Billboard, “He has the voice of an angel and the spirit of one too. I pray that he and Michael Johns are singing up a storm already.” 

Michael Orland, the associate musical director of Idol seasons 1 through 15 told Bronson, “I have the greatest memory of Rickey’s first audition for the judges in Nashville. I remember being so impressed with Rickey’s voice and his smile. As a 22-year old, he was dressed like a 50-year old man in his shirt and tie. The judges told him to dress his age.” Orland described Smith’s sound as an “effortless high voice that could sing anything.”

Idol judge Paula Abdul wrote on Facebook, “I’m shocked & deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Rickey Smith. I send my sincerest condolences to his family and loved [ones]. I am so very sorry for their loss.”

Friends of the singer have created a GoFundMe page to offset his family's funeral costs and to provide financial relief for his girlfriend and young daughter. As of Monday, it already surpassed its $10,000 goal.

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Dorri Olds is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day and several book anthologies. Find Dorri on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.