By Lance Hickey
Weaverville – The North Buncombe community and much of Western North Carolina has been reeling from grief, as the community lost three of its residents and highly respected members. A Sunday, May 26 ATV accident claimed the lives of Johnny Laws, 19; Dillon Akins, 19; and Ronnie Akins, Dillon’s father.
North Buncombe High School, along with friends of the families, held a vigil last week honoring the lives of Laws and Akins, while also creating a fundraiser for the families of the victims.
The three were killed, and another injured, when their vehicle fell down a more than 100-foot embankment, landing in a creek. The accident took place at Windrock Park in Campbell County, Tennessee.
“Those boys meant a lot to us, me,” said Bishop Rusty Smart, pastor of Calvary Worship Center in Marshall at the event held on North Buncombe High School’s football field. “They were successful, they had good heads on their shoulders.”
Laws and Dillon Akins were 2018 graduates of North Buncombe High School before heading off to college at East Tennessee State University. The two were home for the summer.
Laws and Akins, who played both basketball and football at North Buncombe, were remembered for their leadership and the way they encouraged others.
“They were encouragers,” said Smart. “They made an impact not just here locally, but throughout Western North Carolina.”
The vigil began at 8 pm as hundreds of community members gathered to remember the lives of Laws, and both Akins senior and junior, holding candles as Smart led the evening vigil.
“They were always together,” said North Buncombe head basketball coach Robinson. “They just meant so much to this community with all the sports that they played. They were very outgoing boys. They wanted to have fun, but when it came time to play, no matter what sport, they knew it was time to get serious,” he said.
A 13-year-old boy was also injured in the accident but is expected to make a full recovery.
“It’s just a tragedy for the community,” Robinson said. “This (event) is good for the community, it’s good for the families. We’re here for the families and we’ll do anything we can to help them.”
A concert fundraiser for the families at The Barn at Paint Fork was also held on Saturday evening with ticket proceeds benefiting the families of Laws and Akins.