Cal State Northridge student from Merced killed by suspected drunk driver on Father's Day

Desirae Crittenden was loved by her classmates at one local high school and tutored students at another. She was known for always doing kind things for others, and that's exactly what she was doing when she died.

Thursday, June 25, 2015
Cal State Northridge student from Merced killed by suspected drunk driver
A teenager from the North Valley has died after being hit by a suspected drunk driver.

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Two communities are grieving after a suspected drunk driver killed a teenager from the North Valley. Desirae Crittenden, 19, was a Cal State Northridge student who grew up and graduated from high school in Merced.

A smile that could light up any room and a positive personality -- those are just some of the qualities Crittenden's family and friends say made her so special.

"She was a young woman that had the looks, she had the brains, she was beautiful inside. She always saw the good in everybody," said Sharon Burchard, Crittenden's grandmother.

Crittenden was also known for helping others. She volunteered at the hospital while attending Merced High School, and then tutored younger students at El Capitan High School in the same college preparation course that helped her make the dean's list at Cal State Northridge.

"She was just one unbelievable student, one of those that loved and cherished everyone, did a lot for the kids and a lot for the community, and every time you turned around, she was willing to help and willing to put a helping hand out, and when she saw someone in need...was always there," said Kim Conley, AVID coordinator at El Capitan High School.

It was that same selfless nature that led Crittenden out on the road where she was killed in a car crash on Father's Day. The 19-year-old was going to pick up food for a sorority sister, when authorities say a suspected drunk driver T-boned the friend's Mustang she was driving.

"It's so heartbreaking just to know that such a good friend of mine had been just being her. Just her good nature, trying to help out her friends like she always did, and that she just got the consequence of losing her life during it. It's just so unfair in so many ways," said Marcelina Mariano, Crittenden's friend.

A passenger in the Mustang and all four people in the Honda Civic that hit them were taken to the hospital, and the other driver was later arrested. Now, Crittenden's family is also trying to heal.

"We're getting by on the strength that Desirae is giving us. And I mean my heart goes out to all the families that were involved in this. But I just want her to come home. It's hard to believe," said Burchard.

Many of Crittenden's family members were in Southern California on Wednesday for a celebration of her life at Cal State Northridge. They're also planning to attend a candlelight vigil in Merced on Thursday night. It will take place at the Moraga Estates Park, starting at 8 p.m., and the public is invited to attend.