The Tragic Death Of Granger Smith's Son River

Granger Smith pursued his dreams of becoming a country star when he was just 19 years old by writing his first album. Smith went on to win a BMI Country Award for his catchy hit "Backroad Song" in 2016, and the song sold 32,000 copies in the first week in addition to ranking No. 2 on the iTunes Country chart, per In 2017, he earned an iHeartRadio Music Award nomination for Best New Country Artist. After touring the country, Smith gained a loyal fanbase, known as Yee Yee Nation, and released nine studio albums.

However, success didn't always come easy for Smith. "For years, they told me it would never work — so I worked harder," he said in a YouTube video about his career in 2015. "They told me no one would listen to an album I produced out of my house, but I did it anyway. They said no one would come to my shows if we toured outside of my home state, so we toured on the West Coast, the East Coast, the Southeast, the Southwest, and the Midwest."

Smith went on to marry Amber Smith — who he met when he was casting for his "Don't Listen to the Radio" music video, per — in 2010. The couple later welcomed three kids, daughter London and sons Lincoln and River, into their lives.

But tragedy struck in 2019 when the Smiths' youngest son, River, tragically died. Keep reading to find out what happened.

River Smith's death happened in '30 seconds'

In June 2019, Granger Smith and his wife, Amber Smith, revealed to their followers on social media that their youngest son, River, passed away following "a tragic accident" that happened in just "30 seconds." River was just three years old.

Granger revealed their son accidentally drowned in their pool at their house. "We have a pool gate. We have a fence that we built," Granger said in a YouTube video shortly after the untimely death. "As soon as we moved into this house, we built a fence, with a child lock on the gate. We take that very seriously."

Even though Granger and Amber prepared for the worst when it came to their kids, the accident was something they never imagined happening. "There was silence," Granger recalled after River fell in the water. "I was 15 feet from this gate, which is something that will haunt me the rest of my life. I was 15 feet from that water, doing gymnastics." Ultimately, Granger couldn't get there in time to save his son, despite him being a "swimmer." 

Although the doctors could reinstate River's heartbeat, it was too late since he had already suffered severe damage to his brain. Two days later, River was taken off of life support and his organs were donated, per People.

Following the incident, Granger urged his followers to "love those around you right now because the impossible does happen." 

Granger Smith feels close to River when he's performing

After Granger and Amber Smith's youngest son, River, passed away in June 2019, their family was never the same. Nonetheless, there are certain moments when Granger feels River's presence, including when the country star performs for his fans. "I could be on the stage now and there could be a lot of people watching me," he told People in July 2020. "And they don't know, but I've got eyes closed and it's just me and Riv."

Granger plans to release new music in September 2020, but don't expect to hear his late son's moniker in any of the tunes. However, "there is a lot of feeling from him in this album," the musician revealed. 

Following the accident, Granger wasn't sure if he was ready to be in the spotlight again, but once he got back on the horse, he realized it was the right move. "I knew that would be a critical part of my healing process, and my gut instinct was right," he admitted about being onstage again. 

Despite receiving supportive messages about his late son from fans all over the country, Granger still hasn't been able to exonerate himself of his mistakes. "I know that there's going to be a time when I'm going to forgive myself, but I'm not there yet," he said, while Amber added she "hopes" and "prays" they can "forgive [themselves]" one day for River's death. 

How Granger Smith honors his late son today

Clearly, Granger and Amber Smith still cherish their late son River, who died after he drowned in their family's swimming pool in June 2019. Following the incident, the Smiths honored their late son in many different ways. First, they set up the River Kelly Fund, which has "raised over $400,000 for those in need," according to the website. The Smith family also created a red T-shirt for their late son in June 2019, and the proceeds went to the Dell Children's Medical Center in Texas — where River was taken after the accident, per People. Granger also showed off a new tattoo of his son's name written in script on his forearm while he performed in Chicago, Illinois in June 2019, per Today.

Even though River is no longer around, Amber made it clear that he will always be a part of their lives. "365 days since I held your curious, playful, vivacious spirit alive," the Dallas star wrote on Instagram in June 2020, one year after his death. "It's hard for me to grasp that I've been without you a third of the time I had with you."

"Today, I'm holding on to hope. I'm lifting my gaze to what is unseen and instead of letting myself go down a bad road of guilt, pain, and anger, I'm going to praise," she added. "I'm going to thank God for you. You changed me forever, River Kelly."