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Panthers coaching interviews on hold following death of Charlotte FC soccer player Anton Walkes

MIAMI -- Professional soccer player Anton Walkes has died from injuries he sustained in a boat crash off the coast of Miami, authorities said Thursday.

Walkes, who was 25, was found unconscious and taken to a hospital after the crash between two boats Wednesday near the Miami Marine Stadium basin, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Walkes was operating one of the boats that crashed, the state agency said in a statement.

It was unclear whether anyone else was injured. The agency's investigation is ongoing.

Walkes, a defender, was entering his second season with MLS club Charlotte FC. The team had arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 9 for its first leg of preseason training and had a friendly scheduled with St. Louis on Saturday. That match has been cancelled.

Charlotte FC owner David Tepper said all at the club were "devastated by the tragic passing of Anton Walkes."

"He was a tremendous son, father, partner and teammate whose joyous approach to life touched everyone he met," Tepper said in a club statement.

Tepper is also the owner of the NFL's Carolina Panthers. In light of the tragedy, Tepper and the Panthers contingent in New York to interview head coaching candidate Sean Payton on Friday flew back to North Carolina to be with grieving players, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday night. Payton's interview, along with two interviews with defensive coordinator candidates, have been put on hold, Rapoport reported.

Walkes joined Charlotte for the club's debut MLS season in 2022. He played in 23 matches with 21 starts and had five shots on goal this past season.

"Anton made those around him better people in all areas of life and represented Charlotte FC to the highest standard both on and off the pitch," Tepper said.

Fans began laying flowers outside of the east gate of Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium on Thursday. A vigil was planned there in the early evening.

Walkes began his career with English Premier League club Tottenham and also played for Portsmouth before signing with Atlanta United in the MLS, where he spent three seasons.

The MLS released a statement saying "there are no words to describe the sorrow of everyone in Major League Soccer today."

"Anton was a talented and dedicated player who was loved by his teammates and fans," the statement said.

Charlotte FC teammate Jaylin Lindsey said he was "heartbroken" to learn of Walkes' death.

"Fly high my brother, you're the best teammate I could've asked for," Lindsey tweeted. "Love you man."

Tottenham Hotspur also tweeted: "We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former player, Anton Walkes. The thoughts of everyone at the Club are with his family and friends at this incredibly sad time."

_The Associated Press contributed to this report. _