‘Put your keys up!’: Father warns after 15-year-old son dies in crash involving 15-year-old driver

LAKE CITY, Fla. — Jimmy Highsmith has strong words for other parents, after he says he found out on Friday morning that his 15-year-old son, Nevaeh Highsmith, died in a car crash involving a 15-year-old driver.

A Florida Highway Patrol report says the crash happened on Thursday night at 10:40 p.m. along SW Tustenuggee Avenue in Lake City off the intersection of Minnie Glenn.

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State troopers said a 15-year-old boy was driving a sedan when it veered off the road, hit a tree, and flipped several times before coming to a stop. There were two 15-year-olds and two 17-year-old passengers inside the car.

While four teens, including the driver, suffered a combination of minor and serious injuries, one of the 15-year-old passengers was thrown from the car and died on scene.

The report did not include the names of those involved, but Jimmy identified the crash victim as his son Nevaeh Highsmith. Jimmy described Nevaeh as an ambitious teen who attended Columbia High School and had dreams of becoming a professional basketball player.

“He wanted to be an NBA star,” Jimmy said. “He was good with a ball, but he wasn’t a big guy.” Although, Jimmy says his son’s determination made up for that. “Everything he did, he put his heart in it.”

But all those aspirations were suddenly cut short. As Jimmy grappled with the tragic news of his son’s death, he approached Action News Jax to hopefully be able to reach other parents with his warning.

“I want to get a message over to all parents: You don’t wanna go through what I’m feeling today,” he said. “Please put your keys up so your teenage kids don’t get up and pick up other people’s kids and then you’ve got a death in your family like I’ve got today.”

The FHP report said the teen who died was not wearing a seat belt, and it’s unknown whether the other teens in the car were wearing one.

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While it was a close call for the other teens involved, Jimmy wants everyone to remember his son paid the ultimate price.

”My son wasn’t the best person on Earth, but he was a growing kid, he was a good kid and he was intelligent. And I miss him. I’m not mad with nobody [sic],” he said, before pausing and emphasizing once again, “Put your keys up parents. Because somebody lost. And I lost everything.”

Since the driver was 15 years old, he did not have a license. We are working to learn if he had his learner’s permit. Under Florida law, with a permit, he would have been required to be driving with someone 21 or older with a license and should not have been driving past 10 p.m.

Trey Hosford, principal of Columbia High School, shared the following statement on the crash with Action News Jax:

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of the five CHS students who were in an accident last night. One of those students, a member of the Class of 2024, lost their life in the accident. We have grief counselors available for students and staff. We ask our community to continue to pray for our students, faculty, and staff as we deal with this tragedy.”