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‘A gem’: Las Vegas teen among student-athletes killed in crash

Updated February 26, 2024 - 7:29 pm

A Las Vegas teen was one of three University of Wyoming swim and dive team members who died Thursday in a vehicle crash near the Wyoming-Colorado border.

Charlie Clark, 19, of Las Vegas, was a sophomore and a psychology major, the school said in a statement. Clark died with teammates Carson Muir, 18, of Birmingham, Alabama, and Luke Slabber, 21, of Cape Town, South Africa.

Clark’s mother, Anna Clark, an attorney in the Clark County public defender’s office, said her son had the biggest heart and always looked to help others.

“Everyone who met him and knew him loved him,” Anna Clark said Friday afternoon through tears.

On Thursday afternoon, an SUV with five people inside crashed on U.S. Highway 287 in Colorado about 10 miles south of the Wyoming border. Two other men’s team members suffered injuries that were not life threatening, according to the school.

The Associated Press reported that the driver of the SUV swerved off the road, possibly to avoid another vehicle, causing it to roll multiple times. The driver and an injured passenger were released from the hospital on Friday.

That section of highway has been the scene of previous fatal crashes, including one in 2001 that killed eight members of a University of Wyoming cross-country team and another in 2021 that killed three other University of Wyoming students, according to a report by The Guardian.

“They hailed from widely different geographies, but they found a home on our campus and in our student-athlete community,” university President Ed Seidel wrote in the statement. “We will miss them all immensely.”

Ellis Sondrup, 20, swam with Clark on the Boulder City Henderson Heatwave Swim Team. Sondrup said Clark had an ability to tell how someone was feeling without them having to say anything.

“Charlie was a gem of a kid and seriously one of my best friends,” Sondrup said in a text message Friday. “He genuinely built everyone around him up, all the time.”

At a swim meet in California, Sondrup failed to qualify for the finals in her best event. Clark gave a sobbing Sondrup a hug and sat with her.

“He did it for everyone. He was always the bright spot when we needed a chuckle,” Sondrup said. “I am so proud of the kid and everything he accomplished. He really deserved the world.”

Mike Polk coached Clark and Sondrup on the BCH Heatwave team. Polk described Clark as a great leader and great person.

“His growth from a young age-grouper to a senior level athlete and leader was amazing to watch,” Polk said in a text message Friday morning. “It will be a struggle for us to come to terms with losing him this way.”

Raelene Scheidler’s 18-year-old daughter Emma Scheidler was teammates with Clark. She said not many people are aware of the tight-knit Las Vegas swimming community.

“We just become a family, and to have this happen is just devastating,” Raelene Scheidler said.

She credited Clark’s example for pushing Emma to continue her swimming career at Lafayette College, where she will begin attending this fall.

While swimming is a team sport, Scheidler said the individuals that make up the team can become discouraged after a bad race. That’s where Clark would step in and provide positivity to his teammates.

“He was a giant in terms of his stature,” Scheidler said.

Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com.

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