A Hanford girl who died in a car crash Friday was preparing to go her high school prom the next day.
Sierra Valenzuela, 17, a junior at Hanford West High School, died Friday night when the car she was a passenger in went out of control.
The prom was held Saturday night at Hanford Civic Auditorium. Set up inside was a table with a candle, photograph and journal for students to share their memories of her.
Valenzuela was well liked by teachers and students, said Hanford West Principal Darin Parson.
“She had a really nice spirit,” Parson said. “She didn’t have a hard time making friends.”
Her American history teacher said Valenzuela’s death was deeply felt by her classmates.
She had a really nice spirit.
Darin Parson, Hanford West High principal
“She was very smart, one of my top students,” said teacher Robert Duvall. “She had a smile that brightened your day. She was well liked by everyone in her class.”
School psychologists and counselors were on campus Monday to speak with students individually as needed.
The CHP gave this account of what happened:
Valenzuela and a 17-year-old girl were passengers in a 2007 Toyota being driven by a 16-year-old girl.
The car was heading east on Hanford-Armona Road where the road changes to Front Street in Armona, west of Jensen Street.
For reasons still unknown, the driver went off the roadway and hit the guy wire of a power pole, causing the car to spin out, hit two trees and slam into a brick-and-steel fence.
Valenzuela died at a local hospital, and the other two were taken there. Their names were not released because of their ages.
The case is under investigation, but all were wearing seatbelts and alcohol or drugs do not appear to be a factor, the CHP said. Accident investigators are seeking to learn why the car left the roadway.
The driver could be cited for having passengers under age 20, which is generally prohibited for drivers under 18, CHP officer John Taylor said.
“The No. 1 killer of teens is traffic collisions,” Taylor said.
Whether more serious charges will be filed will depend on the results of the investigation, he said.