Days before Christmas, five family members from Georgia were killed in a car crash in Texas on their way to Mexico for a two-week vacation.

Among the deceased was Clara Arroyo, who had just turned 16 a few days prior. Arroyo was looking forward to seeing her grandparents who reside in Mexico.

According to Caller-Times, Sgt. Nathan Brandley, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said that nine people were traveling in a 2003 Chevrolet Suburban, towing a 6-foot box utility trailer. The Suburban exited the side of the road from an overpass in Sinton, Texas, and crashed onto the street below, bursting into flames. It is unclear what caused it. The group was headed to the Rio Grande Valley.

Brandley said:

“We believe the driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel. At this time, we are still investigating the cause.”

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Arroyo was the youngest killed in the crash. According to Daily Citizen News, she and her cousin, Wilber Ramirez were close.

He said:

“We grew up together and we were really close. We just celebrated her birthday three days before this happened … It’s difficult because she was going to see her grandparents and she didn’t make it home. It’s a really difficult time for the family.”

John Hammond, Arroyo’s World History teacher at Southeast Whitfield High, spoke about her special qualities.

Hammond said:

“She was a good student and had a good personality. She was nice and friendly. You hate to hear something like this. You don’t ever want to have a student and a family go through this, especially at this time of year. She was a good girl and always had a smile on her face.”

Screenshot/WRCB

Ramirez said that Arroyo’s parents didn’t want her to go on the trip.

He said:

“Her parents didn’t want her to go. They said the trip was too long and too far, but she convinced them and they let her go … Now they’re having a hard time dealing with her passing.”

As reported by WRCB, Julissa Rodriguez, Arroyo’s sister said that the two were best friends.

Rodriguez said:

“She left so happy, because it’s not like she didn’t want to go, she wanted to go. She wanted to have fun … I told her that I loved her and to take care but I didn’t think I was going to say bye to her like that.”

Screenshot/WRCB

Rodriguez said that Clara loved Christmas. She decorated the house and left presents under the tree for her family before embarking on the trip.

Rodriguez said:

“I tell my mom not to hate the holidays because it’s more like a memory that she just left behind. And every holiday on Christmas and on her birthday — it’s just something we’re going to have to remember.”

Rodriguez interpreted for her mother:

“She didn’t deserve to go that way, you know. She just wishes that she didn’t suffer … She says that if she’s gone now, she just wants her to be with God … If she’s with God and she’s happy, we’re going to stay strong for her and be happy too.”

Four other passengers survived the crash. Arroyo leaves behind her parents, two brothers, and two sisters.

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