BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns family suffered an unimaginable loss Wednesday when Petara Cordero, the 26-year-old girlfriend of defensive end Chris Smith, was killed in a car crash along Interstate 90 in Lakewood.
Making the loss even more difficult to process, Smith and Cordero celebrated the birth of their daughter, Haven Harris Smith, weeks before the accident.
“We’re supporting Chris in every way possible,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said prior to Thursday’s practice at team headquarters in Berea. “It was an emotional time, still kind of is from the standpoint of Chris missed the preseason game because of the birth of his daughter that they just had.
“Chris is on my mind right now. His family’s on my mind. Her family’s on my mind. The four-week old baby is on my mind. It’s a difficult time, but we’re going to get through it. It’s never going to be an excuse. We’re going to get through it. We’re going to get through it together, and Chris is included in that. His family’s included in that.”
According to Cleveland police, Smith was driving a Lamborghini when he experienced a tire blow out and struck the center median wall near the W. 140th Street exit ramp at about 2 a.m. Both Smith and Cordero exited the vehicle to observe the damage.
Shortly after the tire blowout, a 47-year-old female drove a Mazda 3 into the Lamborghini’s open door while veering to the right and struck Cordero, who was standing on the shoulder. Cordero passed away at Fairview Hospital.
Currently, police are waiting on toxicology reports for the female driver of the Mazda 3. Smith was uninjured and was not impaired at the time of his crash.
“This goes beyond football,” Kitchens said. “This was a 26-year-old young lady at the highlight of her life. Chris is a good dude. She was a good girl. We just want to support him in any way we can.”
Kitchens said the news of Cordero’s passing hit hard for the players within the Browns’ locker room.
“This football season is about the journey, so you want to around guys that want to be on the journey with you,” Kitchens said. “To do that, you have to care about each other. If you’re going to get the most out of your team, you have to start caring about each other. When you do that, that builds relationships, and Chris is one of those guys. His smile is infectious. His personality is infectious. He’s just overall well liked, and everybody in that locker room’s hurting for him.
“It puts things in perspective. In this thing we call life, what’s important to you? Well, Chris is important to us. Chris is important to this locker room, and everything he’s going through, we feel.”
Currently, the Browns are preparing for their Week 2 Monday Night Football game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and while Kitchens is leading the players through their meetings and practices, he wants Smith to take all of the time he needs before returning to the team.
“I can’t say one way or the other on that,” Kitchens said. “I know from an emotional standpoint, we’re going to support Chris. I’m going to support Chris. His teammates are going to support Chris. I have not even given one thought to that, and I don’t want Chris to even think about that.”