Town gathers to remember teen killed in Las Animas crash

LAS ANIMAS, Colo. (KKTV) - A young woman's life was cut short, but a town is making certain her memory lives on. Hundreds of people gathered Friday night for a vigil remembering 19-year-old Danielle Gonzales. Just hours before the crash that killed her, she had received a letter offering her a college scholarship.

Hundreds gather to remember Danielle Gonzales

"She ran into my room and she just about slapped me with that paper," Danielle's aunt Brittany Gonzales recalled when Danielle found out about the scholarship. "She goes, 'it's my choice now, I get to make the decision, either I say yes or I say no.'"

Danielle doesn't get to make that choice now. But the large crowd that gathered less than 24 hours after the tragic crash wants the world to know what kind of person she was.

"Mentally and physically she was the strongest person I've ever met," Brittany said holding back tears. "She cared about people so much... she did everything with her heart."

The crash happened just outside Las Animas Thursday night. No one inside the vehicle was wearing a seatbelt.

A 16-year old from Las Animas was heading north on Bent County Road 12 near JJ Road at about 9:30 p.m, Colorado State Patrol said. He reportedly lost control of the pickup truck he was driving.

Troopers say the driver steered to the left, causing the vehicle to rotate off the left side of the road before rolling onto its roof and coming to a stop.

The driver was not wearing a seatbelt and suffered minor injuries. Two other passengers in the truck were also not wearing their seatbelts and were taken to the Arkansas Valley Regional Medical Center in La Junta with minor to moderate injuries.

The fourth person in the car, Danielle Gonzales, died on the scene.

As a senior at Las Animas High School, on Thursday, she received her letter of intent to play volleyball at Dean College in Franklin, Mass. She received an academic scholarship to study psychology, with an interest in sports medicine. In addition to that, she had also just received a volleyball scholarship.

Troopers say the cause of the crash is still under investigation. Alcohol is not considered a factor.

"She always had the most energy out of anyone," added Brittany. "She had this ridiculous laugh, you couldn't help but laugh with her."

Danielle's family is working to set up a memorial fund. through Horber Funeral Home. This article will be updated when that is set up.