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Mother’s heartbreak, tribute serve as strong message after two teens killed

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AURORA, Colo. -- Car crashes are the No. 1 killer of people ages 4 to 34. But teenagers are the most vulnerable. The Smoky Hill High School community is now struggling with that sad statistic.

A promising high school senior and his 17-year-old friend died Saturday in a two-car crash in Aurora.

”I’m coming to grips with it,” Shondra Ray said about the sudden death of her son, Asante or Tay, as his friends called him.

Shredded Earth, broken glass and decimated car parts underscore the shattered lives left behind on East Sixth Avenue east of Tower Road near Buckley Air Force Base.

Tay was driving a silver sedan when he tried passing another vehicle eastbound and hit a black SUV going westbound head-on. Tay’s friend, 17-year-old Kanyon Reynolds, also died and a third 17-year-old survived but is still in the hospital.

“Knowing that you lost your only child is overwhelming. I keep reminding myself what would Tay want? Tay would want mom to smile all the time,” Ray said.

She said she couldn’t be any prouder of her boy. She said he headed up a student diversity leadership group at Smoky Hill, worked a part-time job and was on track to graduate next month.

She said he wanted to start his own welding business and also go into the Navy. But besides being smart and eloquent with his words, Ray said Tay was a good person — and a favorite of many teachers.

“He was so happy. So very thoughtful, very respectful,” she said of her son. “He loved all of his friends.”

And she wants them to know they can come to her any time. Those friends are doing just that.

“He was strong, outgoing, devoted to the people he loved. He was loyal. He was very courageous with everything that he did,” said Rinay Gonzales, a childhood friend.

She and a group of friends from Smoky Hill High visited Tay’s mom at her Aurora home to show her support. They said Tay would have done nothing less.

“He told us to know your strengths and passions, and pursue them for you. Don’t do what other people want you to do,” Gonzales said.

She said he really helped people believe in themselves. Police said the crash happened in a no-passing zone, but just a few feet into it.

It was a split-second decision that has changed his family and friends forever.

“The choices you make affect your life greatly. Take five seconds out and think before you make a decision. It’s OK," Ray said.

“No one learns unless it’s actually personal, touches your heart, like this touches the hearts of many people. What comes out of it is going to help many lives,” Gonzales said.

Ray's friends have set up a fundraising page to help cover funeral costs.

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