West High grieves for cheerleader

Students wear girl's favorite color, post signs

Published: Friday, Feb. 29 2008 12:18 a.m. MST

Friends of Alyssa Lopez spell out her name across from West High. She died in a crash Wednesday.

Tim Hussin, Deseret Morning News

West High School was a sea of green Thursday.

Students held an early morning memorial for 17-year-old Alyssa Lopez, a cheerleader at West who was known by practically everyone in the school. Lopez was killed in a three-car collision in Ogden this week while driving home with friends from a high school basketball game.

Green was Lopez's favorite color. Thursday morning, students wore green shirts, hung green balloons on the fence surrounding the football field, posted a large sign made by the cheerleading squad saying, "Love Always — RIP Alyssa," and placed plastic cups in the chain-link fence to spell "Alyssa" in several spots. The marquee in front of the school was changed to say, "We'll miss you Alyssa."

"It's not easy. It seems unreal," said Lopez's friend and fellow cheerleader Taura Escandon. "I keep waiting for her to call me. I just can't believe it still."

Cheerleaders wore their uniforms to school to honor Lopez. Other students wore green shirts. Some had shirts made with Alyssa's picture on the back. A video showing pictures of Lopez was scheduled to be shown on the school's in-house television to all students at noon.

"There's an overwhelming spirit of unity and outpouring of love," West student body president Lindsey Brinton said. "(In the hallways) people will see someone crying and put an arm around them."

Lopez was killed Tuesday when the car she was riding in was hit in the 5100 block of Ogden's Harrison Boulevard. She and some friends from West and Granger High schools were driving home from a basketball game. Lopez was in a car with two other friends from West, Isaiah Christy and Donald "Dylan" Raso.

Christy was treated for a broken rib and released from the hospital, according to Escandon. Raso remained at McKay-Dee Hospital Thursday, reportedly in serious but non-life-threatening condition, Escandon said.

Another vehicle was trying to catch up to the car Lopez was in, speeding and weaving in and out of traffic, according to what witnesses told police. The other vehicle clipped Lopez's car, sending it into a spin and pushing it into oncoming traffic, where Lopez's car was T-boned by a third vehicle.

Contrary to earlier reports, Escandon said none of the boys who were in the car that police said caused the accident were Lopez's boyfriend. Everyone in the vehicles knew each other. But Escandon said the boys in Lopez's car were her close friends, and the ones in the other vehicle were people she had met only recently.

Ogden police were continuing their investigation to determine what, if any, charges should be filed. Ogden Police Lt. Mike Ashment said investigators were reconstructing the accident.

"They're still waiting for toxicology information from the lab," he said Thursday. "They're still in the process of doing the investigation. They've got some witnesses to interview."

It will likely be next week before the investigation is complete and any decisions could be made on citations or criminal charges in connection with the crash, he said.

Escandon, who did not go to school Wednesday after hearing what had happened to her friend, returned Thursday.

"It feels like something's missing," she said, fighting back tears. "We'd go and just sit in each other's room and do nothing but talk. We were going to go to Dixie (College) together, study law and get rich together. We're going to miss her a lot. I don't want people to forget about her."


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

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