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‘Just a happy guy’: Vigil honors Las Vegas swimmer killed in crash — PHOTOS

Updated March 7, 2024 - 6:48 pm

As soft recorded piano music played, mourners of 19-year-old college swimmer Charlie Clark floated flameless candles in the first lane of the Henderson Multigenerational Outdoor Competition Pool, where he swam competitively for the Boulder City-Henderson Heat Wave swim team.

About 150 adults and teens stood in silence during the evening vigil next to the enormous pool as people signed a framed photo of Clark beaming with pride while holding an award he won as a freestyle swimmer for the team. Written under the picture was “Charlie Clark 2004-2024.”

“Charlie swam for us from the time he was 9 years old,” said Michael Polk, 61, Clark’s longtime coach with the club swim team.

“He was just fearless, just put himself fully into everything he did. There was no halfway. He was very committed, very gregarious, outgoing, happy guy,” Polk said.

“That just kind of brought the best out of his teammates,” he said, adding that Clark, at about 6-foot-6, “had a physical presence and a personality presence.”

Clark, 19, a graduate of Silverado High School in Las Vegas and a sophomore psychology major at the University of Wyoming, was one of three members of the university’s swim and dive team who died in a single-vehicle, roll-over crash in Larimer County, Colorado, on Feb. 22.

One of Clark’s former teammates with the Heat Wave, Phoebe McClaren, 17, wiping away tears from her reddened face, remembered him as “funny, he made jokes all the time, and he was just a happy guy, like he would never show like he was upset or like mad.”

Other teammates also recalled him as a positive, jovial person.

“Charlie was a great swimmer, but an even better teammate and friend,” friend and former teammate Maggie Armstrong, 20, wrote in a text message. “He always had a smile on his face, and lit up any room he walked into. He was always cheering everyone on, whether they were a teammate or competitor.”

“He always knew how to make me smile and always made me laugh during hard practices,” Armstrong said. “Watching him grow as a person who loved everyone wholeheartedly, and as a swimmer who was just beginning to reach his true potential, was incredible.”

“Charlie had such a positive impact on my life,” texted Joseph Purdy, 21, a friend and former teammate. “His compassion and diligence were apparent day in and day out. My heart goes out to all of the swimmers involved. He will be greatly missed.”

Clark’s Wyoming teammates Carson Muir, 18, of Birmingham, Alabama, and Luke Slabber, 21, of Cape Town, South Africa, also perished in the crash. Two other male members of the team suffered injuries that were not life threatening.

The team members were inside a Toyota RAV4 heading south on U.S. 287 about 10 miles south of the Wyoming-Colorado line when the driver swerved off the shoulder of the highway, possibly to avoid another vehicle, according to The Associated Press. The SUV then rolled over multiple times, the AP reported.

The area on the highway has been the site of other deadly roadway accidents involving the university’s students, including one in 2001 that killed eight members of its cross-country squad and one in 2021 when three other students died, The Guardian newspaper reported.

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Michael Polk’s surname.

Contact Jeff Burbank at jburbank@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0382. Follow him @JeffBurbank2 on X.

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