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Teen killed in S.C. 5 crash remembered for his smile

Kenneth Steele Jr. wasn't the best trumpet player in the band at South Pointe High School - but he always had a smile on his face and shared his joy with anybody who would take it.

"He was an absolute joy from the moment he came in as a freshman," band director James Turner said. "He wasn't a great player, but he had a great sense of humor about it. The kids latched on to that."

Steele, 18, died Wednesday after his car crashed head-on into a logging truck on S.C. 5 in Lancaster County on Tuesday.

During his four years in South Pointe's band, Steele grew, matured and improved as a musician - and he never lost his sense of humor, Turner said.

"Every time you looked at him he was smiling," Turner said. "The kids loved him. He had a sense of humor that made you laugh. He'd say or do little things that would make you fall in love with him."

That was evident Wednesday as Turner opened the band room for students to remember Steele. About 20 stopped by.

"It shows what kind of person he was," Turner said. "He was liked. Even when you corrected him, he always smiled."

Around that band room, he was known as "Eskimo" because of the giant hat he wore during cold-weather practices.

Steele was driving his 1993 Honda north on S.C. 5 - just a few miles past the York County line - around 2 p.m. Tuesday when he tried to pass another vehicle, Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Billy Elder said.

Steele's car struck the logging truck, which was not loaded at the time. The truck driver, a 48-year-old Bethune man, was not injured.

Steele was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where he died Wednesday, Lancaster County Chief Deputy Coroner Karla Knight Deese said.

South Pointe Principal Al Leonard said the school is saddened by Steele's death.

"Kenneth was unassuming and always had a pleasant smile," he said. "He was admired and respected by students and faculty members and represented his family and his school in a positive manner.

"We will miss him deeply, but will cherish fond memories. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to his family."

Funeral arrangements were not set Wednesday. The crash remains under investigation.