Charlotte FC defender Anton Walkes, 25, dies in Florida boat accident – WSOC Charlotte

Charlotte FC defender Anton Walkes, 25, dies in Florida boat accident – WSOC Charlotte

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte FC defender Anton Walkes died from injuries sustained in a boating accident off the coast of Miami on Wednesday afternoon, authorities said Thursday. He was 25 years old.

“Everyone at Tepper Sports & Entertainment is devastated by the tragic death of Anton Walkes. He was a great son, father, partner and teammate whose bright attitude to life touched everyone he met,” owner David Tepper said in a statement. “Anton made those around him better people in all walks of life and represented Charlotte FC at the highest level on and off the pitch. He will be greatly missed by many and our thoughts and prayers are with Anton’s family at this heartbreaking time. The club offers its full support to all those affected during this time of mourning.”

The Royal Family, a Charlotte FC fan club, held a vigil on Thursday in front of the East Gate of Bank of America Stadium to honor Walkes’ life. The vigil began at 4 p.m. and dozens of fans brought cards, jerseys, banners, flowers and signs to place at the gate. Charlotte FC owner David Tepper and the team came together surrounded by fans.

For some fans, Charlotte FC is more than just a football club.

“Our family is suffering right now,” fan Jorge Gonzalez told Channel 9 outside the stadium.

Will Palaszczuk, who calls Charlotte FC games for WFNX, said Walkes was a friend before they both moved to Queen City.

“Just the most charismatic person, someone who was loved by every teammate who played with him,” he said.

Palaszczuk said Walkes is very proud to be creating a home away from home in Charlotte.

Anton’s legacy will forever be a part of this football club, Palaszczuk said.

The club posted a video of the squad at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday night.

Florida wildlife officials told Channel 9 Walkes was found unconscious after two vessels collided in the water near the Miami Marine Stadium basin around 3 p.m. Wednesday. He was brought ashore and taken to hospital in critical condition, officials said.

Walkes operated on one of the downed boats, the state agency said in a statement.

It was unclear whether other people were injured. The agency’s investigation is ongoing.

Walkes was drafted by Charlotte FC from the Atlanta United FC squad in the 2021 MLS Expansion Draft. He played 23 games for Charlotte FC.

He was acquired by Atlanta United in 2020, where he was previously on loan. He started 65 times in a total of three seasons with the team.

Before going to Atlanta he was at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club Academy in London.

“We are heartbroken at the loss of Anton Walkes, a truly incredible father, a loving person and an outstanding human being,” said Sporting Director Zoran Krneta. “Anton embodied what it means to be a part of Charlotte Football Club and our entire community mourns this tragedy. The impact he left in the dressing room and throughout Charlotte will never be forgotten. We are thinking of his dear family at this time and will give them our full support in any way we can.”

Charlotte FC said it would not be releasing any further information at this time to respect Walkes’ friends and family.

On Thursday, fans and supporters from around the world found ways to honor him. Dozens of supporters gathered in Charlotte to pay their respects. And during their game that day, Tottenham Hotspur players wore black armbands.

Walkes’ influence was felt beyond the pitch. A club official described him as a true light in the world, reports Channel 9’s Phil Orban.

Tributes poured in from his teammates on social media – Jaylin Lindsey called Walkes the best teammate he could have asked for. Brandt Bronico said he was absolutely heartbroken and thanked him for being who he was.

You can read their tributes – and others – below:

This is an evolving story. Check for updates again.

(WATCH PREVIOUS BELOW: Charlotte FC Pick 2: Anton Walkes)

The Associated Press contributed to this report.