Marie “Lizzie” Johnson was killed early Monday morning when the car she was riding in crashed on Santiago Canyon Road, near Silverado Canyon Road. Johnson was ejected from the car, was not wearing a seat belt and she died at the scene. The driver, 19-year-old Antonio Escamilla, was going 70 mph in his Honda Civic with three passengers in the vehicle. A second car also crashed and six people were injured, including Escamilla.
The group was following another car on Santiago Canyon Road when the other car stopped to avoid a deer. Escamilla swerved off the road and the Civic hit a tree. It was approximately 2 am and the two cars were heading towards Black Star Canyon to meet up with another group. Johnson died at the scene and Escamilla was taken to Western Medical Center Santa Ana with major injuries. Authorities arrested him on DUI and vehicular manslaughter.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office and California Highway Patrol are conducting an investigation. Escamilla, a graduate from Irvine High School, is not in custody. Authorities also found cans of beer at the scene.
Irvine High School will have extra counselors on campus as school starts. Principal Dr. Monica Colunga said, “We are going to be taking one hour at a time and we’re going to be taking one day at a time.” Ian Hanigan, a spokesperson for Unified School District, said, “I can tell you that this is very heartbreaking for us…Our thoughts and prayers are with (Johnson’s) family, friends and loved ones.”
Johnson had arrived back in California on Sunday night from a trip to Hawaii with her parents and two sisters. She turned 16 in June and was going to start school as a junior on Tuesday. Friends and family held a vigil for her on Wednesday night. She was passionate about Polynesian dancing, and her friend Vanessa Granados described her as “carefree, outgoing, bubbly, [and] free-spirited.”
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