Ria Patel was a 20-year-old college student who “lived with such exuberance and had a zest for life.”
Her life was tragically cut short when her intoxicated boyfriend slammed into a light pole in northeast Minneapolis, killing her instantly, according to the Star Tribune.
He fled the scene, abandoning her body.
Michael Laurence Campell, 21, was charged on Wednesday with “two counts of vehicular homicide.” According to the New York Daily News, this is not the first offense the student has on his record:
Campbell has had previous driving offenses, including a hit-and-run stemming from January, which he was serving probation, speeding citations, possession of marijuana in a vehicle and violating a stop sign.
After the crash, investigators tracked down Campbell to have him checked out at a hospital and then sent him to jail shortly aftward. According to the charges, he admitted to drinking that night before leaving with Patel.
Friends later told police that Campbell was “superdrunk” the last time they saw him.
After the crash “brought down the attached traffic light […] crushing Patel,” Campbell fled the scene because he was “traumatized by seeing the state” of his girlfriend after the wreck.
A witness reported that after she saw Campbell’s car crash, she watched the young man take off. When he “circled back and started digging around in the car,” he noticed the witness and told her to call the police. After she confirmed she already had, he “took off again.”
Commenters are calling Campbell a “coward” for fleeing the scene. Yahoo reader X wrote:
[T]wo young lives senselessly thrown away. She’s dead for following a fool and he’ll forever be that loser dirtbag who left his girlfriend to die. Who raised this idiot coward? Teach your kids not to drive drunk or get into a car with one!!!
The night following the crash, the University of St. Thomas mourned the loss of Patel. Her friend Natalie Faber said:
“Every time she walked in the room she lit it up. She was everyone’s best friend.”
Patel’s sister, Raveena, wrote on the remembrance site:
Ria was probably one of the most popular girls around because of her outgoing personality and her ability to make friends with anyone and everyone. I’m sad to see her gone but I know her beautiful smile and personality will live in us and she will continue to look down at us and bless us from above.
The Ria Foundation was “inspired by the life of Ria Patel,” and aims to prevent similar tragedies. As a result, her family wishes to raise “awareness against drunk driving.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 people in the U.S. die on a daily basis in a crash involving an alcohol-impaired driver. Before partaking in outings involving alcohol, it is imperative to ensure those plans involve a safe way to get home. In addition:
Before drinking, designate a non-drinking driver when with a group.
Don’t let your friends drive impaired.
If you have been drinking or using drugs, get a ride home or call a taxi.
If you’re hosting a party where alcohol will be served, remind your guests to plan ahead and designate their sober driver; offer alcohol-free beverages, and make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.
Ria’s family created a GoFundMe page as a way to continue raising awareness. They wrote that:
Ria left this world as an angel – she spread happiness all over the world with her big smile and big heart.
To donate to the Patel family in Ria’s memory, visit their fundraising page.