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Who was Tyler Zook? Teen, 17, kills himself hours after fleeing scene of crash that killed best friend

Tyreese Smith, Tyler Zook's best friend, died of mechanical asphyxia due to multiple traumatic injuries he endured in the fatal car crash
Tyler Zook (L) died by suicide after his friend Tyreese 'Ty' Smith died in a car crash (GoFundMe)
Tyler Zook (L) died by suicide after his friend Tyreese 'Ty' Smith died in a car crash (GoFundMe)

Trigger Warning: This article discusses suicide, which some people might find disturbing. Reader discretion is advised

A 17-year-old boy died by suicide after fleeing the scene of a car crash that killed his best friend. Tyler Zook, a high school football player from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, killed himself in the middle of the night hours after a car crash killed his teammate 16-year-old Tyreese 'Ty' Smith, and injured Amalie Wendt, 18. The Hyundai Santa Fe, in which Zook was also seated, belonged to Wendt's father but it is not known who was driving the car.

Police said that the vehicle was speeding when it veered off into a field. It rolled several times before coming to a stop on its side last week. Smith, whose death was ruled accidental, died of mechanical asphyxia due to multiple traumatic injuries that he suffered as a result of the crash. Zook, who fled the scene, took his own life less than two hours later after coming back home. His death was ruled a suicide by the Coroner's Office.


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Lancaster Daily Voice reported that Zook was an offensive lineman and defensive lineman in the team's Class of 2023. Zook and Smith both worked at a local Sonic Drive-In on East Lincoln Highway. The two of them were also football players at Conestoga Valley Senior High School. Smith had completed his sophomore year while Zook had finished his junior year. The two had been friends for almost ten years.

Who was Tyresse Smith?

Students at their school recalled how close Zook and Smith were to each other. "They're hysterical," freshman Patience Conner said of the pair of best friends, according to the Daily Mail. "They could make anyone laugh." Conner said that the two "couldn't do one thing without the other." "Tyreese was always good at advice - anything you needed, he was there," Conner said. "You could ask him anything, whether he was down or not, and he would help you no matter what."

"Tyreese was very funny," Lancaster County Academy sophomore Karyssa Rosa said. "He was a really good people person. He liked to talk to everyone and he was always there for everybody. And he was just a good person all around. He was always trying to help other people."

On the side of the road where the incident took place, one can see a memorial set up for the two friends. "I have my moments where all I can do is laugh about something that he might have said or done, and there are moments I can't even speak," Smith's mother Bernice McKenzie said. "It's up and down and up and down. I thought that each day it would get easier. Actually, it just gets a little bit harder."

"I wanted to thank the police for finally sitting down and being so straightforward and forthcoming and giving me the information that they can give me," she added. "I know that there's still a lot of unanswered questions but I was able to get some answers and I was just super appreciative of that fact that they did give me information and how much they made me feel supported."

Who was Tyler Zook?

According to his obituary on Lancaster Online, the 17-year-old teen's favorite place to be was on the football field from the time he was six years when he started to play flag football. He especially enjoyed being under the Friday night lights. Tyler also played rec baseball and basketball when he was younger. His family found great joy in watching him play sports.

Tyler enjoyed spending time with his teammates both on and off the field. He also enjoyed hunting, fishing, spending time with family, and being at the beach. He is survived by his mother, Heidi Zook-Payne, step-father, Bill Payne, father, Chris Zook, step-mother Lorelei Zook, sister Kristyn Zook, and brothers Alex Pugh and Devin Zook. He is also survived by his grandparents Glenna & John Kirchner and Sandy & Butch Zook.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741).