Tyler Smedley, a 2012 graduate of Clovis High School, captured the final seconds of his life on his cell phone.
He had just ended his shift as a chef at a restaurant and was driving home about 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 2. On the drive home, for unknown reasons, he began recording himself with his cell phone.
Within a second he lost control of his 2000 Volkswagen Jetta and slammed into a power pole in Steamboat Island, Washington, about a mile and a half from his home.
“In the video we found when we were going through his cell phone afterward we saw him for a split second, then you hear the car crashing,” said his mother, Denise Hoole, who lives in Clovis. “The video is five seconds long. That was the last five seconds of his life.”
Smedley, who was 22, is survived by his 4-year-old twin sons, Charlie and Danny.
The boys have visited the memorial site where Smedley passed away, Hoole said. “They know their dad’s gone, but it’s hard for them to understand exactly.”
Hoole, who admits that she used to check her cell phone while driving prior to her son’s death, has become an advocate against distracted driving. Since Smedley’s death she has reached out to media outlets and school districts -- anyone who will allow her to speak publicly about the dangers of using a cell phone while driving.
“I don’t want any other parent to have to go through what I went through,” she said. “I’m in contact with Clovis Unified. I want to see about going to the high schools and telling the students my son’s story and let them know what could happen when they text and drive. I want to show them pictures of my son’s car.”
Smedley’s Jetta didn’t stop at the power pole he initially hit. It rolled and hit a tree, then rolled again and hit another tree, which finally stopped it.
“A half hour later he was found and 9-1-1 was called,” Hoole said. “The coroner told me that he died on impact on the first hit.”
Smedley was a registered organ donor, Hoole said. She has received letters and even a medal for his post-mortem donations.
“Two gentlemen can see now, due to my son’s corneas,” she said. “His skin tissue was donated to burn victims. Even his bone marrow is being researched for cancer patients. He’s still helping others even after his death.”
Growing up, Smedley attended Red Bank Elementary, Clark Intermediate and Clovis High School. When he graduated he moved to Washington and attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Seattle.
“He was 18 when he moved to Washington to be with his sons,” Hoole said.
After graduating from culinary school he became a chef at Hawks Prairie Restaurant & Sports Bar.
“He loved life,” Hoole said. “He was an active hiker and he wanted to do the Pacific Crest Trail, which is a four-month trip. He had planned it out for April.”
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
“We’re all going to do a one-week hike in his memory, when he should’ve been out there,” Hoole said.
Hoole also plans to organize a memorial walk in Clovis where participants will hold up signs warning motorists not to text and drive.
She is also partnering with local and national groups who work to get the word out about the dangers of distracted driving. Anyone interested can also follow her Facebook page called Loved Ones Against Texting and Driving or donate to her GoFundMe account at www.gofundme.com/8wmaay8s.
“Kids are now videotaping themselves doing karaoke while driving, they’re taking selfies while driving,” Hoole said. “I didn’t know how much of this was going on until I started researching. And it’s not just teenagers and young adults, it’s adults, too.
“Put down your phone, don’t even look at it. It can wait.”
How You Can Help
▪ Donate to Denise Hoole’s effort to spread awareness about distracted driving at www.gofundme.com/8wmaay8s.
▪ Follow her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Loved-Ones-Against-Texting-and-Driving-1548982732059590.
▪ Don’t text and drive. You are not the exception.