Two Eastern Washington University students were killed Friday morning in a car crash south of Colfax on U.S. Highway 195.
The two young women, Ashley Marie Gonzalez and Nancy Zepeda Zarate, were part of the university’s Chicano Education Program that recruits and mentors the children of migrant workers.
Often these sons and daughters are the first in their families to attend college in hopes of attaining a brighter future, said EWU spokesman Dave Meany.
“This has been a devastating day,” he said. “These girls were close to graduation and were just shining stars. To have their future taken away is just crushing for those of us on campus.”
Gonzalez, from Pasco, and Zarate, from Quincy, Wash., were both 21 and passengers in a 1999 Volkswagon Jetta returning to Cheney from a college club activity in Pullman when the sedan turned into the oncoming traffic lane at 4:45 a.m. A semitruck pulling two trailers collided with the car, according to the Washington State Patrol.
They were not wearing seat belts and were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
Medics with Northwest MedStar took the driver of the sedan, Erica Polito Mosso, 21, to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in a helicopter. She was in critical condition.
A fourth EWU student in the car, Carmen Gomez Villalpando, 22, was taken to Whitman Hospital and released.
Mosso and Villalpando wore seat belts.
The truck driver, 54-year-old Virgil Baumgarden, was not injured, according to accident reports.
EWU President Rodolfo Arevalo noted the loss to the Cheney campus in a letter to students and staff.
“This is a very difficult day for the whole EWU community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families and friends of the victims,” he wrote.
Recruiting Hispanic students has been an important goal at EWU. Arevalo was the son of migrant workers and has shared his story of the hope a college degree can offer.
A campus memorial will be planned, he said.