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BOWLING GREEN -- Sarah Hammond had a contagious laugh. A best friend to everyone, she was an all-around gorgeous young woman right down to her perfect teeth.
Rebekah Blakkolb was quiet until you got to know her, one of those people who always seemed happy, who was always there for her friends, always ready to help.
Christina Goyett had a strong personality. A hard worker with over-the-top leadership skills, she managed the sorority house where she lived with 36 other young women.
On March 2, all three of the Bowling Green State University students died in a wrong-way crash on I-75 that has left a mark on their friends and fellow members of Alpha Xi Delta, two of whom spoke publicly for the first time Thursday about their friends and their tragic loss.
Since returning from spring break on Monday, Alpha Xi Delta members have been preparing for a campuswide memorial service and candlelight vigil scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday on the lawn outside University Hall.
"We want to celebrate the lives that they lived," said Jessica Lash, a junior from Strongsville and vice president of public relations for the chapter. "We've been talking a lot about how we want to live our lives as they would have. It's going to make us all stronger people because we want to be the women that they would've been."
By all accounts, the three would have been great successes. Julie Rego, a junior from Sylvania and president of Alpha Xi Delta, said all were good students and "amazing leaders."
Ms. Blakkolb, 20, of Aurora, Ohio, was majoring in tourism and event planning.
Ms. Goyett, 19, of Bay City, Mich., wanted to be a teacher. She volunteered at Wood Lane School in Bowling Green and worked at the campus Rec Center.
Ms. Hammond, 21, of Yellow Springs, Ohio, wanted to do work in the fashion industry. "She was a guru. She was always dressed beautifully and always had the best outfits," Ms. Rego said.
"She had a passion for fashion," Ms. Lash added.
The young women were on their way to Detroit Metropolitan Airport to catch a 5:30 a.m. flight to the Dominican Republic for a spring-break vacation when their car was struck head on by a southbound car driven by Winifred "Dawn" Lein, 69, of Perrysburg Township. Lein also was killed in the crash.
In total, 15 Alpha Xi Delta members were planning to board the plane that day; none of them did. Instead, the young women and their sorority sisters spent spring break attending funerals, showing support for their friends' families, and tending to two of their other sorority sisters who were seriously injured in the crash.
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Kayla Somoles, 19, of Parma, Ohio, was released this week from Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center and moved to a rehabilitation hospital in Sylvania. Her family said in a statement issued Thursday that she was "making amazing progress and her attitude has been positive. She is really looking forward to getting back to BGSU as soon as possible."
Angelica Mormile, 19, of Garfield Heights, Ohio, also was released from Mercy St. Vincent's.
"Angelica's condition is improving each day," her family said in a statement. "She was transferred back to the Cleveland area so she could receive medical care and be closer to home. Please continue to pray for Angelica, so she can return to her BGSU family."
Ms. Rego said the funerals were difficult, yet gave sorority members the chance to be together -- something they needed.
"It was good to the see the families and be together to support each other," she said. "That was the best feeling -- being with my sisters again and actually celebrating the lives of Rebekah, Christina, and Sarah at their funerals, remembering them, talking about them, talking to the families, and telling them just the amazing women they were."
They know it will take time to heal.
"It's difficult losing one student. It's difficult losing one friend. It's difficult losing one family member, but when you lose three of all of the above … that's something that's going to take some time," said Nora Solomon, an advisory board member for Alpha Xi Delta chapter.
Ms. Rego said at first she wanted to know why the horrible crash happened, but she has stopped thinking about it, in part because of what a pastor said at one the funerals. He said it's natural to want to know why but perhaps more beneficial to try to come to terms with what happened, to move on, to remember them, and live for them.
"I think the question of why left my head," Ms. Rego said. "There's no point. It just hurts more to think about it."
Investigators with the Ohio Highway Patrol said they still do not know why or where Lein entered I-75, going the wrong direction. Autopsy results on Lein and Ms. Goyett are pending.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-724-6129.