AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nearly a week after the hit-and-run crash that killed a 21-year-old woman, friends and family members of the victim are gathering to honor her memory.
The victim, Cristal Ortiz Lopez, died three days after a man accused of being intoxicated crashed into her vehicle and left the scene on Jan. 7, according to an arrest affidavit. Lopez graduated from Lyndon B. Johnson Early College High School in 2014.
“She loved everybody. She would get along with everybody. She always brought this positive energy to wherever she was at,” said Jessy Salgado, a friend of the victim.
“Whenever she saw someone was sad or kind of down, she would always just try to cheer them up,” explained Maddie Troy, a 2014 graduate who danced with the victim on the LBJ First Ladies dance team.
The suspect has been identified as Edgar Orlando Camateco-Mercado. The 22-year-old man has been charged with failure to stop and render aid and intoxication assault, among a list of other charges. At last report, he remains in the Travis County Jail. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer was placed on the suspect on Thursday.
Witnesses told police they saw Camateco-Mercado driving a Chevy Tahoe at high speed without his headlights on around 9 p.m. Saturday as it approached the intersection at Johnny Morris Road and US Highway 290. At the time of the crash, the intersection had flashing red lights, which witnesses said Camateco-Mercado drove straight through and hit the Dodge Journey that Lopez was driving, before the Tahoe spun out of control and hit another vehicle that was sitting at the red light on Giles Road.
Ortiz Lopez suffered massive head trauma and according to court documents, on the night of the crash, surgeons were unable to control the swelling of her brain.
“She was such a young, beautiful spirit and to go in this way is just so tragic,” said Sara Greaves, another dance team member.
The arrest affidavit states witnesses saw Camateco-Mercado immediately get out of the Tahoe and hide beer bottles before running off westbound down the service road, running from the scene.
Officers found Camateco-Mercado in a dumpster. Police said he broke his flip cell phone in half and said, “I ain’t no snitch.”
The affidavit also states that two people were passengers in the Tahoe at the time of the crash. Those passengers told police that Camateco-Mercado picked them up in order to sell them marijuana. They said they drove around at the time of their transaction so as not to be seen.
“What kind of person can leave another human being to suffer?” asked Salgado. “How can you do this? This is my friend who because of your actions, we don’t have her here anymore.”
“It’s just really appalling that someone would get behind the wheel in that state,” said Greaves.
More than 100 friends and family members met Thursday night at the high school to remember and honor their loved one. Graduates of the class of 2014 organized the event. The students also shared a message for drivers: think twice before you drive while you’re intoxicated. “Don’t get behind the wheel if you’re intoxicated. Everyone’s life is precious,” added Greaves.
“It’s a devastating loss for the entire community,” said another friend and dancer, Mehraz Rahman.
Loved ones of the victim have set up a GoFundMe memorial page in her memory. To view the page or to donate, click here.