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Former U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team Captain Gray Griffin Killed in Auto Accident

CHICAGO (Friday, October 11, 2002) - Three members of the U.S. Youth National Teams program were involved in an auto accident on early Friday morning on Interstate 85 in Spartanburg County, South Carolina.

Gray Griffin, 18, was killed after his sport utility vehicle overturned and was then hit by a tractor-trailer.  The accident occurred at approximately 2:50 a.m., according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Also injured in the accident were two of Griffin’s former U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team teammates, Chefik Simo and Josh Villalobos, and one of their teammates at Furman University, Sean Murray.  The four players were returning to Furman University from Charlotte, N.C.

Simo, 18, underwent surgery early Friday morning for a fractured pelvis and other injuries.  He was listed in stable condition as of 11:05 a.m. ET.  Villalobos, 16, and Murray were also being treated for non-life threatening injuries.

"At a time like this it is important for all of us to remember the importance of friends and family, when compared to the significance of soccer and sport.  To lose one of our own under such tragic circumstance affects each and everyone of us, and our thoughts and prayers are with each player's family at this difficult time."said U.S. Soccer President Dr. S. Robert Contiguglia.

Griffin, a native of Huntersville, N.C., served as one of the U.S. Under-17s co-captains in 2000 and 2001.  He appeared in 77 matches across two years, and played every minute of the 2001 FIFA Under-17 World Championship.  A two-time Parade All-American, Griffin spent almost two full years in U.S. Soccer’s Full-Time Residency Program.

Simo, a native of Plano, Texas, appeared in 15 matches for the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team this year and was a likely inclusion in the USA’s upcoming Under-20 world championship qualifying roster.  Simo was also a key contributor to the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team in 2000 and 2001.  He was part of the U.S. Full-Time Residency Program from January 2000 – September 2001, and appeared in 77 matches across two years, including three matches at the 2001 FIFA Under-17 World Championship.

Villalobos, a native of Fayetteville, N.C., is currently a member of the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team pool.  He spent two years in U.S. Soccer’s Full-Time Residency Program, appearing in 61 matches for the U.S. Under-17s in 2000 and 2001.

Funeral arrangements for Griffin are unavailable at this time.