‘Wear a seat belt’: NC family speaks out after teen’s death, encourages organ donation

North Carolina news

Ryan Knotts (Family photo via WECT)

LELAND, N.C. (WECT) – The drive-thru line wrapped all the way around the new Leland Town Center Chick-Fil-A Wednesday night as hundreds of people came out to support the family of a teenager who died after a car accident last week.

According to family members, Ryan Knotts, 18, of Leland, over-corrected while driving his SUV and was thrown from the Jeep on January 30.

He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

The restaurant where Ryan started working about three weeks ago donated 20 percent of sales to the family after a fundraiser from 5-8 p.m. Wednesday.

In death, those who loved him remember him as being full of life; life that he’s now given to others as an organ donor.

His grandparents remember the day he showed off his new driver’s license — with that tiny red heart, indicating his choice.

“He was very excited, proud of the fact that he was a donor,” said Alan Knotts. “You know, we felt pride at that time but we never dreamed something like this would happen.”

Lovingly, Alan Knotts says “mischievous” isn’t a strong enough word to describe his grandson, who’s wheels they say were “always turning.”

“He was always respectful,” Alan Knotts said.

Ryan’s Grandmother, Opal continued “he wasn’t an angel by any means, but he was just a sweetheart.”

His family followed Ryan on his “honor walk” through the hospital on Monday, before his organs were donated.

“Him donating his organs has given me such solace knowing that it’s not — his death is not for nothing,” said his stepmother Sara Knotts. “He went on to save other lives by being an organ donor.”

The family is now encouraging others to consider becoming an organ donor.

Looking back, they say they’ll strive to live more as he did.

“Life is fun — like let’s go to the park and let’s run — it’s okay if we trip and fall down,” Knotts said. “I’m going to climb this tree to the very top and you’re going to freak out but I’m having the best time because this is what life’s all about, that’s kind of what he taught me.”

“I thought for 18 years I was teaching him to grow up and be a man, now I look back and he was teaching me how to enjoy life, and have fun and loosen up,” Alan Knotts said.

The family wants other teenage drivers to realize the seriousness of their safety.

“If you know a kid that’s just starting to drive — they think they’re invincible,” said Sara Knotts. “They don’t think this can happen to them, but when you look at — when I looked at Ryan’s parents in the waiting room of the ICU the night of the accident — just the pain, if kids would understand that this stuff is real. There are consequences to not wearing a seat belt and just don’t take the chance. It’s not worth it.”

A memorial service is planned for Saturday.

Copyright 2020 WECT. All rights reserved.

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