"American Idol" season two finalist, Rickey E. Smith, died in a car accident in Oklahoma on May 6.
The 36-year-old was driving on Interstate 240 near Oklahoma City when another car reportedly smashed into his vehicle in a head-on collision at around 3:12 a.m. Smith was pronounced dead at the scene while the other driver was taken to the hospital and later released.
Police took 27-year-old Gerardo Cedra Jr. into custody and had reason to believe he was driving under the influence of alcohol. Cedra crashed into Smith’s 2015 Honda Accord with his 2003 GMC pickup truck while driving the wrong direction, reports KFOR.
The eastbound interstate was blocked off for several hours after the incident, according to WTVR. While the emergency crews were working at the scene, a police car that was guarding part of the accident was hit by another vehicle.
In 2003, Smith became one of eight final contestants on the reality singing competition. He was best known for his rendition of “What the World Now Needs Is Love,” and drew comparisons to R&B singer Brian McKnight. Ruben Studdard eventually won that season of “American Idol” with Clay Aiken as runner-up.
Aiken wrote his condolences on Twitter: “Suffice it to say my heart is truly breaking today. Heaven’s choir has a new beautiful voice. I love you and will miss you, Rickey.”
After his stint on the Fox series ended, Smith lived in Los Angeles for a number of years while trying to launch his musical career, according to Us Weekly.
“I almost had an album,” he told USA Today. “I had some good people around me ... I wasn’t ready to accept the fact that I had to come back and give up music. I’ve made peace with it, but it’s still frustrating.”
When Smith moved back to his native Oklahoma, he remained a star to his neighbors despite abandoning his dreams. “Anywhere I go, they tell me I’m still a celebrity. I appreciate that,” he said.