ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - A fatal car crash early on Wednesday in Ohio involving the girlfriend of a Cleveland Browns player is having an impact in the Charlotte and Rowan County area. Petara Cordero died in the crash and was from Charlotte. Her boyfriend is Chris Smith from Salisbury.
Smith made a name as a standout defensive player on West Rowan state championship teams a decade ago, then signed to play college ball with Arkansas, and on to the pros with the Cleveland Browns…but locals say he has never forgotten his community.
“A great man," is how West Rowan Coach Joe Nixon describes Smith. "We had him here 10 years ago as a player and it’s been a great joy for the whole community to watch him grow into a great man and a great father.”
Last year Smith came home to give $40,000 to the Rowan-Salisbury Schools athletic fund, and an additional donation to a local charter school.
“His support has gone beyond just playing the game," said WRHS Principal Dr. Jamie Durant. "With multiple charities that he has, he gave back to all of Rowan County Schools…his big focus is giving back to those who might really benefit from it.”
That’s why when word spread of the tragedy, it affected people far away from I-90 in Cleveland. Police say a tire blew on Smith’s car and it hit a media wall. While he and girlfriend Petara Cordero were out of the car, another driver hit the passenger side of Smith’s car. Cordero died at the hospital. Cordero had recently given birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter, Haven Harris Smith.
The child was not in the car at the time and Smith was not hurt in the crash.
The loss suffered by Smith is shared through the community. Even though he graduated ten years ago, he’s still a presence on this campus.
“When Chris is available, Chris stops by. He’s always one to stick his head in t he office, stick his head in the weight room, checking out what’s going on, he’s always one to encourage, always goes above and beyond and is always looking out for others," Dr. Durant added.