BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A Brunswick County teenager died over the weekend in a freak hunting accident in Mississippi.
His family is now sharing their memories of the 17-year-old as they prepare for his funeral.
Justin was able to call 911 and his stepmom on his cellphone.
“I got a call and it was him and he told me what happened. Justin, I’m so sorry baby I tried so hard to get there,” Nikki Smith said. “I will never forget that call and I will never forget him. He was so sweet and he could bring life into anything. He was so positive.”
His older brother, Jordan Lee Smith, says he will always remember the good.
“He was always there,” Jordan said. “He always had my back. If I wasn’t leading him, he was leading me. He did like being around everybody. Enjoying the moments and the small stuff.”
Justin’s mom says he was the baby.
“I started watching him grow from just a tiny little baby that was so precious,” Jackie Fox said. “He had beautiful blue eyes and strawberry red hair. I knew I was in trouble. That ginger was going to be a firecracker and boy he was.”
Justin and his dad loved to be outdoors and hunt together.
“Just be safer,” Justin’s father Jamie Smith said. “I mean, you think you’re always safe, just double-check. Just spend more time with them and don’t work all the time … and I love you, Justin.”
With her eyes full of tears, Ricki Nantz described her nephew.
“He was growing up and turning into such a respectful person,” Nantz said. “He had just started really living his life. As much as it hurts to know he’s gone, I’m just glad he was enjoying himself what he loved most.”
Nantz says he loved hunting almost as much as he loved people like his little cousin Tyler.
“Tyler’s young enough that he may never remember Justin, he’ll definitely know Justin and how much he loved him,” Nantz said.
His best friend Matthew Carter says he was always there.
“He was just about a brother to me,” Carter said. “I consider him more of a brother than a friend. He was always there for you when you needed him. He was never mad, never upset. He was always happy.”
Hunting was his passion, Smith’s grandma Debra Helms said.
“Accidents happen and we don’t have control over them,” Helms said. “If we had control over them, we could’ve fixed this … but you can’t.”
As an experienced hunter, the family says he knew what he was doing and was always careful.
“Even though it was a hunting accident, it was something he loved to do,” Helms said. “You can’t fault it. He’s going to be missed.”