The father of a teen taking some of his final breaths on Wednesday evening told a crowd of mourners their support was helping him through the worst period of his life.
Chris Carney’s son, Alex, was one of three schoolmates involved in a high-speed crash in Prairie Village last week. Alex, who was a Shawnee Mission East sophomore, is the only one not expected to survive.
His father said the overwhelming support from the community gave him and Alex’s mother, Beth, the strength to attend the candlelight vigil in Loose Park.
“I will go back and tell Alex of the amazing support he’s got,” Chris Carney said to the more than 100 students, parents and others who gathered.
The vigil was organized by Alex’s classmates. Students from multiple metro-area schools came to pay their respects.
“It’s amazing to see (the students) all come together and be united,” said parent Heather Calvert.
Carney described for those gathered a tumultuous last week in the hospital.
Brain surgeons initially fought to save Alex’s life. But the family was told that a CAT scan of Alex’s brain was the worst hospital staff had ever seen.
Despite nurses moving Alex into their “lucky room,” the family learned Sunday that “there was no hope for Alex.”
Carney said he wrote, “Keep fighting, love Dad,” on his son’s cast Wednesday morning, even as he knew he’d eventually lose his son.
He has sought out silver linings in the tragedy, and he found one in the fact that Alex’s organs will be donated, including, the family hopes, his heart.
Carney also implored the students gathered to drive responsibly, saying not to would defy “the wish of a grieving father.”
“I want to thank all of you for coming out to celebrate Alex,” Carney said, “but I also need you all to drive home safely. I don’t want to come to a vigil for you guys.”
Alex had been a passenger in a car that lost control and crashed into a tree on Cherokee Drive near West 71st Street about 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 7.
Another passenger, sophomore Alex Rutiaga, suffered serious injuries but is expected to survive, Shawnee Mission East Principal John McKinney said Tuesday.
The driver of the car, sophomore Drew Welch, was not seriously injured.
The crash remains under investigation, Prairie Village Police Sgt. Eric McCullough said this week. Both cars involved in the crash were traveling west on Cherokee, and “speed was a factor” in the severity of the crash, he said.
More than a dozen others spoke at the vigil, sharing memories of their classmate, friend, teammate or loved one. Laughter elicited by fond memories of Alex mixed in with the sound of crying.
Matt Jacobsen, an assistant football coach at Shawnee Mission East, described Alex as quick to learn and a role model to teammates on and off the field.
“I always looked up to him. I thought he could do anything,” said Alex’s cousin, 12-year-old Caroline Lieberman. “He’s going to be in all of our hearts.”
Cadey Carney, Alex’s sister, added, “It’s amazing to see how many lives Alex touched and how many loved him.”