American Idol alum Rickey Smith has tragically died at the age of 36.
The season two finalist was killed on Friday morning in a wrong-way collision on an interstate highway in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, officials tell KOCO News. The other driver reportedly crashed into Smith's car head-on.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers "detected odor of alcohol" on the driver's breathe and later arrested him for DUI, the local news agency states.
Smith placed eight his season of Idol and fellow contestants, including Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard, have shared touching tributes. "Suffice it to say my heart is truly breaking today," Aiken tweeted. "Heaven's choir has a new beautiful voice. I love you and will miss you, Rickey."
We were all actually supposed to look serious during this part of the #Idol tour in 2003. Rickey couldn't do it. I'm truly not sure that his face was physiologically capable of not smiling. He was ALWAYS smiling. Always. When someone passes, it's amazing how quickly people jump to say how they were "the nicest person in the world" or how they were "always happy." Those phrases get thrown around so much that they begin to lose their impact. I am here to tell you that those could not be more true for Rickey Smith! In the Idol house we all lived in together, Rickey was up at 6am every morning singing and happy. Every morning he woke me up by singing LOUDLY in the stone portico below my bedroom. He knew it woke us all up, but he couldn't stop. He was literally just so happy. I would give anything, today, to hear him sing and wake me up again. When a contestant gets cut on Idol it's a slight bit sad to see them go, but when Rickey was eliminated... EVERY ONE OF US cried. He was truly the sunlight of our season and remained a happy and beautiful person and friend beyond. I sometimes feel numbed to death and loss as it has come too much and too often in my life. Today I am not numb. I am truly heartbroken. Heartbroken for myself and my Idol friends who have lost the brightest and most joyful part of our little "family". Heartbroken for Rickey's true family: his parents and the lives of his life, Candy, Ali, and Ava, who have lost their light. And I'm heartbroken for everyone who never got a chance to know the most gentle soul I've ever known. God blessed him (and in turn blessed us all) by giving him an amazing voice that he shared so readily with us here on Earth. I'm sad today, but I know he's already singing loudly in Heaven and waking up the other angels with his joyful and beautiful voice. And I truly believe I'll get to hear it again one day. I will miss you Rickey. #rickeysmith #restinpeace
"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," Studdard wrote. "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 you're heart out!!!"
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. 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. 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 you're heart out!!!
Kimberly Caldwell wrote that her "heart is broken" and called Smith one of a kind. "I have never met anyone that could brighten your world like he did," she recalled. "I was so fortunate to share the time we had together on Idol and on tour. I will cherish those memories."
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
Frequent Idol collaborator Melinda Doolittle shared a sweet photo of the two and captioned it, "Rickey, you will be missed so very much. I can't find the words right now. I'm devastated. Rest in sweet peace, my friend. I am blessed to have known you."
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