KERSEY, Colo. — Hundred of residents from Kersey and surrounding communities packed the Platte Valley High School auditorium Sunday night, sharing memories of Derek Prescott.
Friends, family, teachers, classmates, teammates, coaches and even opponents on the basketball court attended.
Nearly two dozen people spoke in front of the crowd while others talked among each other during a candlelight vigil for Prescott, a 17-year-old Platte Valley junior and a member of the Broncos’ boys basketball and track teams.
Prescott died in a traffic crash on U.S. 34 between Greeley and Kersey on Saturday night when his vehicle collided with a saddled horse on the highway.
“We all need to make sure we keep his memory alive; that’s how we honor him,” Platte Valley Athletic Director and Assistant Principal Travis Stinar said in front of the large gathering. “He epitomizes what it is to be a Bronco.”
Four vehicles were involved in the crash, in which a saddled horse walked onto the highway.
“He was someone who could have been in all individual events but chose to be in team events to make the team better. That’s the kid he is.— Darren Horn, Platte Valley track coach
The Colorado State Patrol reported Sunday afternoon that a Ford Ranger driven by Prescott was eastbound on U.S. 34 about 7:10 p.m. Saturday when it collided with the horse. The crash occurred near Weld County Road 45 on U.S. 34, and the vehicle traveled another 400 feet before coming to a stop against a tree.
Three more vehicles collided with the horse. It’s unclear why the horse was in the highway, but there are reports of a ranch rodeo in the area adjacent to U.S. 34 on Saturday night.
One passenger in another vehicle had minor injuries.
In addition to the legions of students and facility from Platte Valley, students, athletes and coaches from rival schools, such as Valley, Highland and Eaton, attended the vigil to share memories of Prescott and offer support to his family. His father Loy, his mother Nikki and his older sister Ashlee were in attendance.
“We will get through this together,” Loy said. “We love you all. Son, we love you.”
Recently retired Valley boys basketball coach Keith Grant said, “We feel your pain, and we just want you to know, as your sister community just on the other side of the highway, we’re here for you.”
Moments before the vigil, Platte Valley English teacher and assistant track coach Robin Lind spoke about Derek and his family’s unconditional faith.
“They’ll pull together; they’re pulling together already,” said Lind, who had Prescott in class just last week. “The thing about his parents is they have such strong faith. I think that’s what will get them through. They’re just a wonderful family.”
Friends, family and classmates came to the scene of the accident Sunday afternoon, just west of Weld 45, to pay respects at a cross that was placed in the median.
Eastin Franek lives next door to Prescott’s family and has been friends with Derek since childhood. The two were on the track team together.
“He was always smiling. Just his smile brought my day up even in the worst of times,” Franek said.
Franek said Prescott will be missed by all who knew him.
“No matter what, he was always a contender, in practice, in races. He was always competing and always making himself better,” Franek said.
Longtime Platte Valley principal Brad Joens spoke of Prescott’s relentless competitiveness and fearless attitude — in the classroom, on the track, and perhaps most of all, on the basketball court.
“You better bring your game, because he might be the nicest kid on earth, but he’s going to win,” Joens said. “He never backed down, ever.”
In his second year as Platte Valley’s boys basketball coach, Rolando Davila forged a close bond with Prescott.
Davila saw a star on the rise in Prescott.
“It was his team, his program,” Davila said. “The things we were going to do this year, it was all because of him. … There were days I tried to break him to see if he’ll come back, and he was there before me the next day.”
As several of his classmates shared on Sunday, Prescott always carried a smile and a witty sense of humor, even while he was burning past the competition on the track.
He excelled in relays, contributing heavily to a pair of second-place relay teams in the Class 3A Track and Field Championships in May.
“He was someone who could have been in all individual events but chose to be in team events to make the team better,” Broncos track coach Darren Horn said, before the vigil. “That’s the kid he is. … We’re sad because we’re losing him, but we do know he’s in a better place.”