Soccer was supposed to be their escape.
Gedeon Desir, 13, Lens Desir, 15, and Richecarde Dumay, 17, all members of Little Haiti FC, a local youth soccer club, awoke before dawn Saturday and trundled out to catch a bus for the ENIGMA soccer tournament in Weston.
The trio, together, trekked to their regular pickup spot near the corner of Northeast 13th Avenue and 125th Street.
They never made it.
The three friends died on impact at approximately 5:22 a.m. after being struck by a sport utility vehicle, according to North Miami police. So far, investigators say they’re “going through the proper protocol,” to determine if charges will be filed against the driver, who survived but sustained serious injuries.
Police, who are being tight-lipped about the driver’s identity, say the proper warrants are still being acquired to see if alcohol was a factor.
“The boys are all shattered by the incident,” Mallory Kauderer, board vice president of the Little Haiti FC, said in an email.
The Little Haiti FC club was established in April 2014 to provide support to low-income children in the neighborhood. Clairdine Estimable, who assists the club, said it plays an essential role in the community.
“For a community that’s filled with gangs, hopelessness, with a high rate of school dropouts, it gives them just a positive outlook for them to participate.”
Estimable said because of low resources and support at home, it is common for club kids to be taking the bus by themselves that early to matches. The buses were on their usual route of two stops, the other in Little Haiti. Census data show the median household income in Little Haiti is about $27,000.
Uniforms are paid for by private sponsors, and businesses in the neighborhood help pay other expenses. The low-budget organization struggles to secure grants because there’s not enough funding for a grant writer. Despite those challenges, many of the children play against teams from elite programs worldwide. Seniors usually end up earning soccer scholarships to universities out of state.
Estimable said the club had decided to enroll in the ENIGMA tournament on Saturday on the off-chance one of the players would get noticed by a scout.
“You never know who is going to be there,” she said.
On Sunday, local leaders released photos of the youths. Gedeon Desir attended North Miami Middle School. Lens Desir and Richcarde Dumay went to Miami Edison High School.
“Look at the promise in their eyes. Look at their smiles, the future they had,” said Pat Santangelo, who sits on the soccer club’s board of directors.
On Monday, coaches and counselors, along with parents, teammates and local members of the community, will be gathering to brainstorm on how to honor the teens’ memories.