UC Merced mourning student killed in crash

FRESNO, Calif.

Nathalie Raffaelli died Tuesday after losing control of her car and crashing near Bakersfield.

Dozens of UC Merced students and staff members gathered outside the campus library to remember Rafaelli.

"She was very sweet, she always had a smile on her face. She was the sweetest girl, and she's really going to be missed. I'll miss her a lot," friend Thalinna Fuentes said.

The mourners bowed their heads to reflect on the young life cut short by a car crash and placed a wreath of yellow flowers at the base of an oak tree.

"Whenever the university has a death of a student the whole community feels the loss of somebody, whether people knew Nathalie or not," Charles Nies, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, said.

Charles Nies did know Nathalie. He says she was a strong young woman who worked hard in school and was determined to give back.

"She was getting ready to graduate and complete her degree in psychology and part of that was her commitment to really wanting to help others," Nies said.

The 22-year-old also worked in dining services at the university. Many of her co-workers attended the memorial, including Stephanie Bermudez.

"We're a big family, it was nice seeing that," Bermudez said.

Now as Nathalie's classmates try to cope with her loss, the university is ready to help.

"Our counseling center is open for students to reach out and try to understand what they're feeling and how this death has impacted them," Nies said.

Sadly, this is not the first time UC Merced has experienced this type of loss. A memorial near the campus marks the spot where two female students died in a car crash in April 2011.

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