Mabel Bahena, a 19-year-old freshman at UC San Diego, was killed in a car accident on Friday, Feb. 17 after a gust of wind pushed driver Yolanda Lozano’s vehicle into a truck parked on the right shoulder of I-15 during a rainstorm.
Bahena was a freshman studying engineering.
Jose Bahena, Mabel’s brother, created a GoFundMe page after the accident to cover the family’s funeral costs where both strangers and acquaintances have raised $9,020 in nine days and left thoughtful messages and remembrances of Mabel.
“May she rest in peace, from one UCSD student to another,” Austin Zhang wrote with his donation. “I am deeply sorry for your family’s loss.”
Those who were close to Bahena remember a goofy young woman who always wore a smile. Lozano, who was Bahena’s best friend since sixth grade and neighbor, told the UCSD Guardian what it was like to know her.
“Throughout the eight years of friendship there was never a moment in which Mabel had a negative attitude,” Lozano said. “She always had a smile on her face. I absolutely cherished her.”
After meeting in middle school, Bahena and Lozano were attached at the hip and were rarely seen without each other unless they were with their boyfriends. Bahena and Lozano even got jobs together at Target to minimize their time apart. The best friends’ families soon became close themselves, and Lozano said the support she has received from Bahena’s parents has helped her come to grips with the accident.
“Mabel and I always thought as the future as ‘our’ future,” Lozano said. “We’ve always included each other in our plans. She wanted to be a typical suburban mom with me as a neighbor so our kids could play with each other.”
Fifth year Thurgood Marshall College student Marlee Kongthong, who worked with Bahena and Lozano at Target, remembered Mabel, as all who knew her did, with a wide smile plastered across her face.
“Mabel was a sweet, goofy gal,” Kongthong told the Guardian. “She had the biggest, brightest smile I’ve ever seen. Her hair was as wild as her. She was silly and cracked jokes often. The room always warmed up when she was present. She giggled often and couldn’t ever keep a straight face because she always had a big ol’ smile on.”
Kongthong added that while talking to other employees at Target about Bahena, “each person mentioned her smile.”
Bahena’s funeral service will be held at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow at Greenwood Mortuary Garden Chapel. She is survived by her parents, step parents, four sisters and two brothers.