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Ark City community comes together to remember teen killed in crash

Published: Oct. 29, 2021 at 10:42 PM CDT
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ARK CITY, Kan. (KWCH) - The town of Arkansas City (Ark City) came together Friday night to remember Rhett Lathers. The 17-year-old student athlete was a senior at Ark City High School. He died from his injuries in a Tuesday night crash in Kay County, Okla. Two other passengers were injured in the crash in which the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported the 18-year-old driver was under the influence. The driver was not seriously injured.

Lathers was a starter for Ark City High School’s football team, which had been scheduled to play at McPherson Friday night in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs. Last season, Lathers was a key member of the Bulldog team that turned heads with a run to the state title game, a run that included an upset of McPherson in the state semifinals. Ark City chose to forfeit Friday night’s game, ending its season. It was a move both teams scheduled for the anticipated rematch felt was appropriate with Ark City facing circumstances much bigger than the game of football.

At Ark City High School Friday night, there was still a game-like atmosphere with the marching band playing the alma mater and fans cheering on the football team as players stormed out of the locker room and onto the field. The players suited up to honor their fallen teammate. Lathers’ number, 42, lined the field and scoreboard.

“I love what I do and love coaching young men and love this sport. And [Lathers] is the type of kid that matched that passion, which you don’t usually see in a 15-to-18-year-old kid,” Ark City High School Head Football Coach Jon Weimers said.

At the stadium Friday night Weimers spoke to hundreds of community members about the kind of student, teammate and friend Lathers was before they turned off the lights, lit candles and had a moment of silence for 42 seconds.

Weimers said he knows Lathers would have wanted his team to play Friday night, but right now, it’s still too fresh. That’s why the Bulldogs decided to suit up to honor Lathers instead. Weimers said the crowd that showed up Friday night is a true testament to Lathers’ character.

“He’s just that type of kid. He’s got that type of impact, not just on the football team, but on the community,” Weimers said. “It obviously showed tonight. HIs family, his friends, friends of friends and just people that knew him around here, it’s really kind of cool to see the community come together.”

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