Family Mourns Its 10-Year-Old "Hero"

The Lee family wanted to share its heart-wrenching story of a 10 year old who did more with his life Tuesday night than many of us will ever do. Chad Lee, Junior was a fourth grader at Magnolia Park Elementary in Ocean Springs. His family believes he died in a traffic accident Tuesday night just like he lived -- thinking of others first.

It was spring break in Ocean Springs. So Chad Lee spent time at his mother's house in Saucier.  On Tuesday night, Chad went to Three Rivers Park and watched his nine-year-old friend play baseball.  Everybody was smiling after his friend's team won.

As the group headed home, victory suddenly turned into chaos. Tires screeched. Bumpers slammed into each other. Lee was in the back seat of a Ford Aerostar van as it crossed Highway 49 at Duckworth Road. Nobody in the minivan knew just how tragic the next few seconds would be.

The tires screeched, Lee's mother Devan High said because "on the way home, the brakes failed on the vehicle."

When the Aerostar carrying Chad and his friends got hit, it stalled in Highway 49's southbound lane. It was about 10:45 p.m. And the intersection where the car sat had no lights. That explains why as soon as Chad pushed his friends out of the Aerostar and he started to get out himself, a second car coming down the dark highway slammed into the back of the stalled minivan.

"It was a tragedy. But he did a great thing," Chad's mom thought.

Two days after the accident, sitting on some chairs at the funeral home where Chad Lee's service will be held, grieving family members proudly remembered a 10-year-old whose quick thinking saved two lives.

"He was a hero," Karen Trotter said. "My grandson died a hero."

It was that second collision on the darkened highway that caused so much pain for this family. Chad's friends heeded the 10-year-old's advice and dashed to safety. Nicholaus and Tyler were okay. However, Chad got hurt. His internal injuries were so severe, he died two hours after the wreck.

As painful as her loss is, Mom can't forget what Chad did to protect his friends.

"It makes me feel proud. We raised him that way. He always thought of others before himself," she said.

The family decided that even in death, Chad Lee, Junior could still save lives. Someday they hope his eyes and his heart will give hope to two other children. If the organ donor recipients see life and live life like Chad did in his 10 short years on earth, Chad's grandparents say two other families will be as fortunate as they were.

A smile crossed Karen Trotter's face when Chad's grandmother said, "I had planned to take him fishing that very next day, because I was going to babysit him."

Then a tear dripped down her cheek.

"I never got to go fishing with my grandson," she remembered.

She prays that others will do what she didn't get to do.

"Love your family. Just tell them you love them everyday," she said.

Visitation for Chad Lee, Junior is Friday night from 6:00-8:00 at the Bradford O'Keefe Funeral Home on O'Neal Road in Gulfport. The 10-year-old's funeral is Saturday morning at 10:00 at the same funeral home.