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Rickey Smith (1979 - 2016)

Getty Images / FilmMagic / Chris Polk

Rickey Smith (1979 - 2016)

Rickey Smith, an “American Idol” contestant who finished eighth during the program’s second season, died May 5 in a car accident near Oklahoma City, according to multiple news sources. He was 37.

Born in Texas, Smith taught school before he took a chance and auditioned for the show in 2002. The season opened Jan. 21, 2003. Smith’s singing proved popular with the judges – if not the viewers who voted for other contestants including Clay Aiken – and Smith was brought back as a wild-card choice. Ultimately, however, Ruben Studdard won the title in May of that year.

After Smith’s “Idol” run was over, he stayed in Los Angeles, where the show is taped, for a few years, but he returned to Oklahoma when he started to go broke.

“I wasn’t ready to accept the fact that I had to come back and give up music,” Smith told USA Today in a 2008 interview.

Smith studied performance at Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas.

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Friends, fans and other American Idol contestants took to social media to comment on the sad news.

“Suffice it to say my heart is truly breaking today. Heaven’s choir has a new beautiful voice. I love you and will miss you, Rickey,” tweeted fellow contestant Clay Aiken.

“You were the heart of our season and the true definition of a real friend.. I will miss you my Friend RIP Ricky Smith. I’m sure you’re in heaven singing you’re heart out!!!” wrote Ruben Studdard on Instagram.

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