ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Underneath the University of St. Thomas' iconic arches, grieving students and friends gathered to honor the life of 20-year-old Ria Patel, who died in a fatal hit-and-run crash over the weekend.
With heavy hearts and clasped hands, three young women who consider Patel a dear friend, struggle with what life will be like without her.
“We met freshman year and got really close sophomore year, and we were kind of like inseparable,” said Madeline Duesek, a University of St. Thomas junior.
“She was my first friend,” said Kelly Swanson, Patel's roommate. “One of my greatest friends, one of my closest friends she ended up being ... There was seldom a day that she was upset or in a bad mood. Just being around her spirit would lift my own."
“The last thing I saw her doing was dancing her butt off, she loved to dance,” said Anna Rauzi, another fellow St. Thomas junior.
All three reflected on their final hours with Patel as happy ones.
“We were all out celebrating her sister Ravina’s 21st and we were all just dancing, having so much fun, some really great last memories,” said Swanson.
Neither were interested in discussing Michael Campbell, the 21-year-old driver, who Patel was last seen with. Campbell now faces criminal vehicular homicide charges.
“We don’t know what happened in that two-hour timeframe from when we last saw them, I think our friend group as a whole, and most of us know that you don’t drive if you’ve been drinking,” said Rauzi.
Campbell allegedly drove drunk, crashed into a Northeast Minneapolis traffic light and left Patel, his passenger, for dead before police or first responders could arrive. At the intersection of Stinson Boulevard and Ridgeway Parkway is where Ria took her last breath, away from those who love her, before they ever got a chance to say goodbye.
“Remember to say I love you to everyone you care about and be grateful for everything,” Rauzi cried.
Ria’s friends and family have already launched The Ria Foundation in her honor to raise awareness against drunk driving. To learn more about how you can contribute click here.
“Remember to be safe, call an Uber, your life is priceless and an Uber might be expensive at the time, but like I said, your life means a lot more,” said Swanson.
A funeral service for Ria Patel will be held Saturday, September 23 at the Anderson Student Center in the Woulfe Alumni Hall at the University of St. Thomas from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.