‘He Lit Up the Stage’: Family Mourns Taylor Swift Fan Killed After Concert
When April Bancroft thinks about her little brother Jacob Lewis, there are so many good memories that it’s hard to choose a favorite. She can remember having to blare music next to his bed to wake him up in the mornings, or applauding him when he performed in musicals with his high school theater troupe. But one of her favorites will always be attending Taylor Swift’s Houston concert on Friday, where they laughed, sang, and danced.
“It was my Christmas present to him because he had never been to see Taylor,” Bancroft, 26, says. “I told him if it was any show it was this one because he had to see her sing everything that she’s ever come out with. The concert was absolutely amazing. We had so much fun.”
It’s those memories of her brother, and more, that Bancroft is holding onto tighter to than ever, after a magical night seeing the Taylor Swift Eras Tour ended in disaster. She and Jacob were on their way home from the Houston show at NRG Stadium when they started experiencing car trouble. He got out to push the car toward the shoulder of Houston’s Southwest Freeway when he was struck by a car and died on the scene. According to local news outlet KHOU11, the driver, who is suspected of being intoxicated, fled the scene before eventually being arrested. “Jacob will be remembered as a loving and faithful young man who was loyal to his family and friends,” his father Steve Lewis wrote on Facebook, sharing a GoFundMe started by friends. “His last act was to push his sister to safety on a dark street. There is no way to describe the magnitude of this loss and the emptiness left in our hearts.”
Speaking on a Zoom call, Jacob’s mother and sister describe the late 20-year-old as a loyal and devoted brother, uncle, son, and theater lover. He was about to start his sophomore year at Sam Houston State University in the musical theater program — a love he’d cultivated since he was young.
“I only have Jacob and April,” Karyn Lewis, Jacob’s mom, says. “They’re my babies. From a very young age, he always was attached to stories and characters. As a little boy, he would dress up, not just donning capes, but all sorts of characters. He eventually found his way to the stage. It’s where he learned to be such a great leader and friend. His talent ballooned. He lit up the stage. And his voice…”
“He was just the best brother that you could ever have. He was so sweet from the day he was born and he was the best way to be upgraded to a big sister when I was younger,” says Bancroft, who only had minor injuries from the accident. We just bonded so much as siblings together throughout the years.”
Both Bancroft and Karyn say that listening to Swift has been a bit of a family pastime. It was Steve who first brought her 2006 self-titled album into their house, declaring she was the next big thing. And in 2015, during her 1989 tour, Bancroft and Karyn won tickets on the radio to see the show. While they were there, Swift’s mother, Andrea Swift, saw the mother-daughter pair and brought them from their seats to the front row. “We were within five feet from Taylor Swift for the whole concert,” Bancroft says. “It was the most surreal experience ever.” It’s moments like this, along with Jacob’s last hours, that make the wave of support the family has received from Swift fans so “overwhelming.”
In the four days since Jacob’s death, almost all major Taylor Swift fan accounts on Twitter have sent the family condolences and posted links to the official GoFundMe. On Sunday morning, the account had raised $440 dollars of its $1,000 goal. Now, it’s surpassed $100,000 — with thousands of $13 donations from Swift fans remembering and celebrating Jacob.
“It’s just wild to see Jacob impact so many people,” Bancroft says. “How so many people want to instantly give back is amazing.”
According to Karyn, the immediate love is also a touching tribute because it’s representative of how willing Jacob was to always help those around him.
“If anything would have happened to any fandom he belonged to, he would have been the same,” Karyn says. “He would have reached out and he would have tried to find a way to comfort and help that community as well. Jacob touched so many families here through the connections he made at school, and those families are definitely such a support and comfort. But no, there was no way for me to even fathom that so many people would be willing to support us at this time.”
As much as they want to, the Lewis family can’t get their beloved son back. But the staggering amount of donations they’ve received has helped them with a new and ongoing wish: honoring Jacob’s legacy. Karyn tells Rolling Stone that the family is going to use the money in the GoFundMe to set up a theater scholarship in Jacob’s name at his alma mater.
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“It’s so students there [are] able to go to school and do the things that he was wanting to do and never got to, “Karyn says. “My main goal is keeping his memory alive.”
As for Bancroft — who plans on going to concerts in Jacob’s honor — she tells Rolling Stone that her brother will live on through her memories, the stories she tells her son, and the last great night they shared together. And to Jacob: “I’m so glad we helped your wildest dreams come true.”