With the sudden death of Sebastian River High School student Jake Beecher still fresh, family, friends, teammates and coaches continue to come to terms with the tragic crash that took his life.
“He was well-liked by teammates and was extremely coachable. His coaches and teammates are taking it pretty hard,” Sebastian River High School Athletic Director Jessica Upchurch said. “He was an overall good kid who had a passion for football.”
Family and friends created makeshift memorials for Beecher, 15, of Vero Beach, who relatives said aspired to be a pilot. Sebastian River High School dedicated Beecher, a sophomore, as “athlete of the week” following his death.
The athlete of the week spot will be dedicated to Jake Beecher, a sophomore who loved football and will be sorely missed. 🏈💙🦈Please keep Jake’s family and teammates in your prayers
One memorial placed in front of the school campus had flowers, silver balloons showing Beecher’s jersey number “74” and pictures of Beecher in his football gear. Another memorial was placed at 106th Avenue and 77th Street, the site of the fatal all-terrain vehicle crash.
Balloons, flowers and candles have been placed at a memorial at 106th Avenue and 77th Street in Vero Lake Estates for 15-year-old Jake Beecher. Beecher was killed Sunday in an ATV crash, according to Florida Highway Patrol. Four other teens were also hurt in the wreck. #VeroNews pic.twitter.com/GMzL9Jirlx
— Nicholas Samuel (@JournalistNickS) October 5, 2020
Two women hugged each other as they stood several feet away from the memorial that had candles, flowers, and balloons with the team colors silver, blue and black. Beecher was a passenger on the ATV when the vehicle rolled over Sunday while trying to make a left turn onto 77th Street, according to Florida Highway Patrol.
Beecher was pronounced dead at the scene, troopers said. Four other teens on the ATV were also hurt and taken to Sebastian River Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.
The other teens, ages 15, 14, and two age 13, all of Vero Beach, were released from the hospital Sunday, Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Yanko Reyes said.
Upchurch said the mood on campus was somber Monday when officials met with the Sebastian River High School Sharks’ football team. Beecher played on the junior varsity and varsity teams and also wore the jersey number 90.
“Everyone is grieving differently,” Upchurch said. “It’s a fresh wound.”
Sebastian River High School will provide grief counselors to students and staff this week, Upchurch said. The School District of Indian River County will also have grief counselors available.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic accident that took the life of Jake Beecher, sophomore at SRHS, on Sunday,” the School District of Indian River County said in a Twitter post. “Our heartfelt condolences are with Jake’s family and friends during this difficult time.”
We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic accident that took the life of Jake Beecher, sophomore at SRHS, on Sunday. Our heartfelt condolences are with Jake's family and friends during this difficult time. Counselors will be available to support those impacted by this loss. pic.twitter.com/UjiJNysb1M
— Indian River Schools (@IRCSchools) October 5, 2020
Sebastian River High School will have a brief moment of silence to remember Beecher at Friday’s home football game against Port St. Lucie High School, Upchurch said. Details on funeral arrangements or vigils were not yet available.
A GoFundMe fundraising page created by Beecher’s family garnered nearly $15,000 Monday to go toward his funeral, burial and memorial expenses. The page has a goal to reach $15,000 in donations.
“Jake was taken from this world too soon and we are all devastated,” said Beecher’s cousin Madison Beecher on the fundraising page.
The page noted that Beecher was raised by a single father after the teen lost his mother to cancer in 2015. The Sebastian River High School Touchdown Club said Beecher also lost his grandfather to cancer nearly two weeks ago.
Other tragedies involving SRHS students
The Sebastian River High School football team experienced two other tragic deaths involving teammates over the past two years.
Logan Spencer, 16 and a Sebastian River High School football player, was fatally shot execution-style Feb. 2019 in a wooded area in Fellsmere, according to Indian River County deputies.
Elisha Martin, 19, who was also a Sebastian River High School student at the time, was charged with murder in connection with the shooting. Both teens lived in Sebastian.
Tragedy also struck the Sebastian River High School football team a year prior.
Kamaree Jevon Lyons, 17, Sebastian, died in Sept. 2018 after collapsing while playing basketball inside a school gym, school officials said. Lyons was a linebacker on the football team.
An autopsy report showed Lyons, a senior, suffered a sudden cardiac attack from heart muscle complications.
Upchurch said the recent deaths have had a huge impact on coaches and players. The seniors on the football team have been around to experience the loss of Lyons, Spencer and Beecher.
“It’s extremely hard,” Upchurch said. “It’s not easy for the kids or adults.”
Photos by Nick Samuel