HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – A family is mourning the death of a South Florida high school football player who is remembered as a “gentle giant.”
Lashaun Stephen, 15, was determined to play in the NFL, his aunt says. But his promising young life was cut short after a deadly crash Saturday night on I-95.
“Oh he was amazing,” Dayana Echeverry said of her nephew Tuesday in an exclusive interview with Local 10. “He would practice in the rain. If there was a hurricane coming, he would still practice. Everything was football. football was his life.”
A student at McArthur High School in Hollywood, Stephen towered over the other teens, standing 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, Echeverry said. He went by the nickname “Big Baby.”
On Saturday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, Stephen was riding in the bed of a pickup truck along with a group of other 15-year-olds, heading northbound near the Hollywood Boulevard exit.
While trying to change lanes, troopers say the pick-up side-swiped another car, causing the pick-up’s driver to lose control and spin out.
Stephen was ejected and later died at the hospital.
“He fought so hard,” Echeverry said. “They tried to revive him but his heart couldn’t take it.”
Troopers say none of the truck’s other passengers were hurt in the crash. FHP says that the driver had a valid learner’s permit but that no adult was riding in the vehicle.
It is also illegal in Florida for any juvenile to ride in the bed of a pickup truck traveling down the highway. At this point, nobody has been cited or charged, but an investigation continues.
Stephen’s loss is devastating for his family, which is now left wondering how a 15-year-old driver was able to get behind the wheel of a car without an adult present.
The bottom line is they were reckless,” Echeverry said. “They played around with somebody’s life, and he died.”
In a chilling twist, Echeverry had just happened to get onto I-95 Saturday night and got caught in the backup from a crash ahead. It wasn’t until after she got off the highway and re-routed herself that she learned the crash claimed the life of her oldest nephew.
“What we can’t comprehend is the brutality of the way that he had to die,” she said. “That’s what hurts us.”
A GoFundMe page is collecting donations for the family of Lashaun Stephen. Click here for more information.