A recent Hatton High graduate died Thursday morning from injuries he received in a one-vehicle accident on June 27, according to Alabama State Troopers.
Kagen Blade Sutton, 18, of Mount Hope, received head injuries when the 2003 GMC Sierra he was in ran off the westbound lane of Alabama 24 near Lawrence County 108. He was airlifted to Huntsville Hospital and spent time in the neuro-intensive care unit there.
Sutton was an all-state cross-country competitor and was named The Decatur Daily’s Runner of the Year in 2017.
His grandfather, Lynn Porter of Mount Hope, said he’ll never forget holding hands with Sutton as the passenger jet they were in was roaring down the Huntsville International Airport runway taking off on their flight to Australia in the summer of 2015. They went to Australia as part of the Down Under Sports program, and Sutton competed in a cross-country meet while there, Porter said.
“I had a bad experience flying in 1980, and I was afraid to fly,” Porter said. “I had told Kagen that story several times, and I think I made him afraid to fly.”
Porter said it was Kagen’s first time on a jetliner.
“When that jet started rolling just before takeoff, we held each other’s hand and I looked over there at him and his eyes were shut and so I shut mine,” Porter said. “We made it there and back safely. But I’ll never forget that moment with Kagen. He was my best buddy.”
Porter said he helped raise Kagen since he was 3. “He loved the outdoors and running races,” he said. “I loved every moment I spent with him going to races everywhere. He made friends everywhere we went. He touched so many lives on the other side of the world.”
Lawrence County Schools Superintendent Jon Bret Smith said it is difficult losing a student.
“Our hearts go out to the family of Kagen Sutton,” he said. “He was a young man with his entire life in front of him. He always had a smile and was very talented.
“I had the opportunity to watch Kagen grow up during my time at Mount Hope and Hatton. We are extremely mournful that his life was cut short.”
As a junior, Sutton finished third in the state 1A-2A cross-country meet with a time of 16:29.31. After injuring his back his senior year, he finished sixth with a 17:09.25 time.
Lawrence County High cross-country coach Stanley Johnson said he remembered Sutton’s junior year the most.
“He was our county champ that year,” Johnson said. “He made our runners better. He was hard to beat. They had to train harder to beat him.”