Vigil honors local 11-year-old boy killed in East Texas auto accident

Many of Sam Courtney’s friends gathered last Wednesday night to honor the memory of the outgoing Barton Middle School student who died in a car accident outside Shepard, Texas, on Nov. 11. (Photo by Veronica Gordon)


Sam Courtney was a precocious child with a distinct voice,  who left a big impression on those who knew him. So much so, that a large crowd gathered last Wednesday night in Kyle in remembrance of 11-year-old Sam, who died in a weekend accident.

Sam was traveling in a van with his family and friends near the East Texas city of Shepard on Nov. 11 when their vehicle was struck by another car. The van left the road and rolled over, according to the accident report.

Sam died on the way to the hospital. His father, Brian, was in critical but stable condition. He is out of the hospital, but will require surgeries.

Sam was a student at Negley Elementary School from kindergarten through fifth grade and had been attending Barton Middle School this year. His younger brother Ryan is a second-grader at Negley.

The vigil was packed with those who knew Sam and some who had never met him, but wanted to offer condolences and support. Members of the community coordinated the vigil on short notice, with the help of Sam’s coaches and neighbors.

“Our PeeWee team mom contacted CFPO-PAL Lobos moms to help her. It started as just our youth football family and word of mouth has spread fast,” said local mom Yvonne DeLeon.

Sam’s younger brother Ryan’s coach, Robert Rios, led the prayer. J.R. Ramos, who coached Sam, said he will always remember the young player.

“He used to bring a smile to my face,” Ramos said. “He used to say the craziest things.”

Ramos said the team is going to miss how Sam made them laugh.

“When I heard about Sam, I didn’t want to believe it. Eleven is too young,” Ramos said. “I hope Sam is looking down right now and looking at his teammates, proud and glad that they’re all here for him.”

Some of Sam’s classmates also spoke about what a character he was in school. One student called him a class clown, and others talked about his love of football and riding bikes.

Principal Teri Eubank spoke on behalf of Barton Middle School.

“This is a tragic loss,” she said. “I had already laid out Sam’s life for him. In the conversations we had, it was obvious how brilliant he was. He will be missed.”

An online fund has been set up for the family to receive financial donations for medical and funeral expenses. Donations can be made at

A private family service for Samuel was held Tuesday, with burial at Kyle Cemetery.

Samuel is survived by parents, Brian and Debra Courtney, and younger brother Ryan, grandparents, Ron and Donna Bell of Kyle, Tom and Nita Glover of Sycamore, Il., and Jay and Robin Broughton of Katy, as well as great-grandmothers, aunts, uncles and numerous cousins. 

Pallbearers were Brandon courtney, Jake Glover, Bo Gossett, Anthony Leos, Kolby Rankin and Andrew Raven.

There will also be a Celebration of Life for the public at a later date.

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