Heartbreaking news travels fast.
The death of 14-year-old Kaedin Marsalis Duncan Averrios-Smith on Monday, Oct. 24, stunned the community.
The teenager’s family was in shock and not ready to talk publicly about their loss this week. But community members took steps to try to alleviate the financial stress with a series of fundraisers.
And young people gathered on Thursday evening, Oct. 27, near the scene of the accident to light candles, leave tributes, play music and release balloons in memory of their friend, a student at Tehachapi High School.
Kaedin’s mother, Ria Averrios-Fritz, attended the event because she wanted to be supportive of the youngsters. Showing remarkable composure, she checked with many of the teens, asking them if they were OK.
About 70 people gathered in the parking lot of Tacos El Superior on Tucker Road. The business owner made the space available for the gathering and adults watched to keep the young people away from the busy street. The mood was somber and respectful.
Funeral arrangements are pending and will be under the direction of Wood Family Funeral Service. Family members noted on Facebook that a public memorial service is being planned in November. Details will be published when they become available.
Tehachapi dentist Randall Kam set up a GoFundMe page to help raise funds to help the family pay for funeral expenses with a goal of $30,000 for the family. By Friday afternoon the amount raised was more than $27,000. To donate go to bit.ly/3W3YGxo.
Other fundraising events included a car wash and a barbecue.
Teenagers were in the parking lot at Big Papa’s Steakhouse on Tehachapi Boulevard on Saturday morning, Oct. 29, accepting donations and washing cars to raise money for their friend’s family.
And employees of Red House BBQ were in front of The Shed on Tehachapi Boulevard on Sunday, Oct. 30, selling tri-tip sandwiches for the same reason. Many people also stopped by to drop donations in a bucket.
“This tragic loss has our whole community saddened,” owner Mano Lujan said. He noted that Albertsons donated the meat for the fundraiser.
Tehachapi Police said the 14-year-old boy died after the bicycle he was riding was struck by a pickup truck on Tucker Road at about 4 p.m. Oct. 24.
The TPD reported that the pickup was exiting a parking lot onto the northbound side of the road when the accident occurred. The juvenile suffered significant trauma and was taken to the local hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
In a news release, the police department said the investigation indicated the bicyclist was riding south on sidewalk on the east side of Tucker Road when he rode into the path of the pickup truck exiting the driveway and the bicyclist was not seen by the driver of the truck.
There was no evidence of the driver being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, police said. The name of the driver was not released.
The investigation is ongoing, and anyone who witnessed the accident or has any information about it is asked to contact Senior Police Officer Packebush at the police station, 822-2222.
Claudia Elliott is a freelance journalist and former editor of the Tehachapi News. She lives in Tehachapi and can be reached by email: email@example.com.