HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – A grieving crowd released orange, green and white balloons Thursday night in Hollywood. Some were in the shape of a star. The gesture was part of a tribute to a 15-year-old football standout who died from injuries he suffered during a car crash.
Orange, green and white were the colors of Lashaun Stephen’s uniform for the McArthur High School’s football team in Hollywood. His Mustangs teammates knew the 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive tackle as “Big Baby.”
Karen Echeverry, his mother, said Lashaun was a homebody. On Saturday, he asked her for permission to go out with his friends. It was a rare occasion, so she allowed it and she said it will pain her forever because he will never come back home.
Lashaun worked so hard his friends and family were convinced that he was going to graduate in 2023 with a scholarship to play college football. They were all heartbroken when they learned his NFL dreams ended in a tragedy that could have been prevented.
On Saturday night, Lashaun was riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck bed on Interstate 95, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The teenage driver had a learner’s permit, FHP troopers said. Lashaun wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. There was a crash.
The force of the impact propelled Lashaun’s body onto the road. Fire Rescue personnel moved fast. Lashaun’s aunt Dayana Echeverry said that while FHP troopers were investigating the cause of the crash, doctors and nurses were trying to save his life at the hospital.
“He fought so hard,” Echeverry said on Thursday. “They tried to revive him but his heart couldn’t take it.”
Dayana Echeverry set up a GoFundMe page asking the community to help Lashaun’s mother to cover the cost of a funeral that she could have never planned for.