Heartbroken friends and family members washed and polished cars Friday afternoon, hoping to raise enough money to alleviate funeral costs for the family of a 16-year-old Westwood High School student who died while walking to school.
Police said Adelaida Mendiola-Yain’s death appears to be an unfortunate accident.
She was walking south along Alma School Road about 6:45 a.m. Thursday, when a truck, also traveling south on Alma School, turned right and struck her in the crosswalk, police said.
Friday morning, investigators found the truck — a 60-foot-long Kenworth box truck with a faded red cab and enddump trailer — and driver, 49-year-old Ronald E. Keyes, at Gila Recycling in Tempe.
Police said Keyes confirmed he was making a turn at Alma School Road and Eighth Street around the time of the accident, but the crosswalk was clear as he turned onto Eighth. Keyes told police he didn’t know he was involved in an accident.
Witnesses at the scene said Mendiola-Yain apparently stepped into the crosswalk after Keyes’ truck started turning right from Alma School. Police said she might have been hit by the truck’s rear wheels.
"She might’ve underestimated the truck’s wide right turn," said police spokesman Sgt. Rob Campbell.
Keyes could not be reached for comment.
Rosa Sapien, 15, a Westwood student and friend of Mendiola-Yain, went to the Westwood counselor’s office early in the day, too upset to stay at school. Around noon, she started washing cars with her friends in a Burger King parking lot.
Ami Flores, 15, said Mendiola-Yain was "like a shining star at the school."
"She gave an example to all of us," Flores said. "Whenever we did something bad, she’d say, ‘No, don’t do that. That won’t get you anywhere.’ "
Mendiola-Yain was an honor roll student at Carson Junior High School last year as a ninth-grader, said teacher Liana Clarkson.
"A lot of people had a lot of hope for her future," said Clarkson.
Her brother, Jose, said she talked about becoming a lawyer someday. Others said she wanted to be a doctor.
Though she had only attended Westwood for about a month, in that time, she ran for student council president, played on the girls’ soccer team and was part of the pre-International Baccalaureate advanced placement program, which usually only allows the brightest juniors. Mendiola-Yain was a sophomore.
Funeral information was not yet available Friday.