By Allison Jarrell and Eric Heinz
Flowers, pictures and farewell tributes adorned a long tree at the end of the jetty on Wednesday, June 28, along Puerto Place in Dana Point, the location where 9-year-old Nathan Smith sustained fatal injuries in a skateboarding accident on Sunday, June 25.
Smith, a resident of Dana Point, was a Las Palmas Elementary School student in San Clemente. His 10th birthday would have been July 18.
One woman, who asked only to be identified as Heather, stood solemnly as she looked over the impromptu memorial site on Wednesday. She said she knew Smith and his family members. Wednesday afternoon was the first time she had been to the location of the incident since Smith died.
“He really enjoyed anything and everything outdoors, skateboarding, surfing, having fun with his friends,” Heather said. “He just enjoyed life, and unfortunately it just went too soon. All the people down here drive too fast and…this is a kid area, basically the extension of a park. But people drive through it like it’s a freeway.”
According to Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) officials, at about 5:30 p.m. the boy was hanging on the driver’s side of a Ford E350 van while riding his skateboard, his friend was hanging onto the other side, as his 22-year-old sister was driving. The boy lost control of the board and fell under the wheels of the still-moving vehicle, said Lt. Lane Lagaret, spokesperson for OCSD.
Lagaret said people were attempting to give the boy CPR when they arrived. OCSD has not been made aware of what specific injuries the boy suffered except that they were fatal.
Sgt. Rich Himmel of Dana Point Police Services posted a message to Nextdoor on Monday, June 26, reporting that deputies responded to the traffic collision in the Harbor.
The boy was pronounced dead at the Mission Regional Medical Center trauma center about an hour after the incident.
The boy’s friend did not suffer any injuries.
“Here at Dana Point Police Services, we are all saddened by this terrible tragedy. Please join us in keeping this family in your thoughts and prayers,” Himmel wrote.
On Monday, Las Palmas Elementary School Principal Kristen Nelson confirmed to the Dana Point Times that the boy was a student at the school she oversees.
“The loss of this student is devastating to all of us at Las Palmas,” Nelson said in a statement. “This student will be greatly missed for his humor, kindness and energy. The entire school community is grieving and will be there for this long-time Las Palmas family.”
Lagaret said no arrests have been made, and the accident was still under investigation as of Wednesday afternoon.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist the family with funeral costs and other expenses at https://www.gofundme.com/vrccq-3500000.