Family and friends gathered to remember a 17-year-old Shawnee Mission East soccer player killed in a ATV accident.
Friends say the victim, Tyler Rathbun, was about the most-loved person at the high school, and that was evident by the number of people who turned out for a vigil for him Sunday night, leaving messages pinned to a cross say the final words they didn't get to tell him in life.
A glowing crowd moved outside from the packed Hillcrest Covenant Church into the open air where Rathbun spent some of his happiest hours, streaking down a soccer field wearing No.14 for Shawnee Mission East.
"He was an amazing soccer player, just an unbelievable person," teammate GJ Melia said. "(He was) just an unbelievable guy to be with."
The all-state forward held the Lancers' record for goals, but, more importantly, he was an ultimate team player, always building teammates up or comforting them after a tough loss.
"If you were playing against him or playing with him, he treated you the same way, and he had so much respect for everyone around him," friend Anna Sheridan said.
He was a leader on the field as team captain and off the field as a true friend.
"A guy with a lot of compassion towards every single person, it was intentional with every conversation he had," Sheridan said.
It was hard for friends to believe those conversations are now over after the ATV Rathbun and three friends were riding rolled in a Miami County field on Victory Road just south of West 3951 Street.
Rathbun was the only one killed; the driver was injured but is recovering.
"It makes you realize how valuable life is. I was looking in the mirror, like, 'Wow, I'm so lucky I can go to school tomorrow.' I'm alive," teammate Jack Sernett said.
The loss was so sudden, so unexpected, friends never got to say goodbye. However, for now, they promise to remember him every day, always running forward.
"We're trying to celebrate his life. Life goes on, but you can't forget this guy, he's an unforgettable person," Sernett said.
The investigation into what caused the accident is still ongoing, but friends say their focus is on supporting each other and Rathbun's family.
All the messages from the cross will eventually be taken down and given to Rathbun's parents and older brother.
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