Former Atlanta United player Anton Walkes dies in Florida boat crash

Atlanta United midfielder Anton Walkes (26) acknowledges the fans after an MLS playoff soccer game against Columbus Crew, in Atlanta, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. Soccer player Anton Walkes, who started his career at Tottenham, died Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, after an accident in Florida, his MLS club Charlotte FC said. He was 25.(AP Photo/Danny Karnik, File)

Professional soccer player Anton Walkes — an inaugural member of Atlanta United — has died from injuries he sustained in a boat crash off the coast of Miami, authorities said Thursday.

Walkes, who was 25, was found unconscious and taken to a hospital after the crash between two boats Wednesday near the Miami Marine Stadium basin, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Walkes was operating one of the boats that crashed, the state agency said in a statement.

It was unclear whether anyone else was injured. The agency’s investigation is ongoing.

Walkes, a defender, started his career with Tottenham Hotspur in England and first came on loan to Atlanta United for the club’s inaugural season in 2017. He played in Portsmouth before signing with Atlanta United ahead of the 2020 season. Following the 2021 season, he was selected by Charlotte FC in the expansion draft.

“We are heartbroken to learn of the tragic passing of Anton Walkes,” Atlanta United said in a team statement. “An inaugural member of Atlanta United, Anton was the epitome of a great teammate with a personality that lit up every room he entered. He will be deeply missed by all of those who knew him. On behalf of everyone at Atlanta United, we send our deepest condolences to Anton’s family, friends and Charlotte FC.”

Walkes was entering his second season with Charlotte FC. The team had arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 9 for its first leg of preseason training and had a friendly scheduled with St. Louis on Saturday. That match has been canceled.

Charlotte FC owner David Tepper said all at the club were “devastated by the tragic passing of Anton Walkes.”

“He was a tremendous son, father, partner and teammate whose joyous approach to life touched everyone he met,” Tepper said in a club statement.

Walkes played in 23 matches with 21 starts and had five shots on goal this past season.

“Anton made those around him better people in all areas of life and represented Charlotte FC to the highest standard both on and off the pitch,” Tepper said.

Fans began laying flowers outside of the east gate of Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium on Thursday. A vigil was planned there in the early evening.

The MLS released a statement saying “there are no words to describe the sorrow of everyone in Major League Soccer today.”

“Anton was a talented and dedicated player who was loved by his teammates and fans,” the statement said.

In 2016, a boat crash off Miami Beach killed Major League Baseball player Jose Fernandez, a star pitcher for the Miami Marlins. Fernandez and two other people died when their 32-foot vessel slammed into a jetty, according to authorities.

Charlotte FC teammate Jaylin Lindsey said he was “heartbroken” to learn of Walkes’ death.

“Fly high my brother, you’re the best teammate I could’ve asked for,” Lindsey Tweeted. “Love you man.”

Tottenham Hotspur also tweeted: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former player, Anton Walkes. The thoughts of everyone at the Club are with his family and friends at this incredibly sad time.”

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