"She would just walk into a room and it would just light up," said friend Letzy Vargas.
Several friends are speaking out on the impact 18-year-old Briauna Ramirez had on those who knew her. Ramirez, who was from Bermuda Dunes, died Saturday after a suspected driver entered into wrong-way traffic on the 105 freeway in Lynwood, slamming into a vehicle with 5 people inside, according to CHP.
"So much pain in my heart and I honestly am still in denial. A part of me still doesn't believe that it actually happened and that it’s actually her," said Greta Tauferner, a longtime friend to Ramirez.
Ramirez was riding in the front-seat of a 2012 Honda. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to the California Highway Patrol, the wrong-way vehicle crashed head-on into another vehicle near Long Beach Boulevard just after 3 a.m.
Authorities identified the suspect as a 24-year-old man from West Covina who was driving a 1999 Honda. According to CHP, the suspect was rushed to the hospital with moderate injuries and was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.
The driver of the 2012 Honda, an 18-year-old Coachella resident, and a
29-year-old Coachella woman who was a passenger in the car, were taken to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood. On Monday, hospital officials confirmed to News Channel 3 that the 18-year-old was in "fair" condition.
Two other people in the 2012 Honda, a 28-year-old woman from La Quinta
and a 28-year-old woman from Thousand Palms, were also taken to the hospital with major injuries.
The identities of the 4 remaining victims were not immediately released.
"She was such a good person. She inspired a lot of people for sure. So many people looked up to her- even now still I think a lot of people look up to her. She’s a force in all aspects, she excelled in everything she did," Vargas recalled of her longtime friend, Briauna Ramirez.
People who knew Ramirez said her heart shined through, and everyone who knew her could feel it.
"She was the most consistent person, always checking up on people, even if they don’t give her that back, always there for everyone. A firecracker and a force to be reckoned with and it started at a very young age," said Tauferner.
Ramirez had just celebrated her 18th birthday on Thursday.
"She literally lit up the room whenever she walked in, she was definitely that type of person," said Camille Moreno.
Each friend that spoke with News Channel 3 danced alongside Ramirez on the La Quinta High School dance team. They were in disbelief after learning they'd lost such a close friend.
"It’s just crazy knowing that all of us are not going to get the opportunity to dance aside her one last time, but those times that we did dance aside of her, they’re going to be living with us for the rest of our lives," said friend, Delaney Gonzalez.
Gonzalez recalled seeing Ramirez dance for the first time and said she immediately knew she wanted to befriend her.
"I just could watch her dance all day and she would just walk into a room and it would just lighten up. She was a star and she was like a sister to me," said Vargas.
Another friend who could not join the group, Sierra Alvarez, wrote a tribute to Ramirez that her friends could read during the interview. One portion read in part:
"Bri taught me how to play the clarinet even though I was awful, and Bri was literally a natural like everything else she did. [We] had dance class with dance team together where we bonded so easily. I’d walk to her house after school to do absolutely nothing, but lay in bed laughing about nothing. She made me so happy, she never let me feel alone..."
"When I think of her I just think of a shining star," said Vargas.
Former La Quinta High School Dance Coach Aaron Rubio also joined the group, saying "you couldn’t take your eyes off of her. Anything, anything she did, you just wanted to watch her."
Rubio said Ramirez was a "fierce dancer" that could do it all. "She loved hip hop, she loved the jazz, she could do ballet."
Friends believed Ramirez would succeed in anything she set her mind to.
"I think the best thing that we can do for Briauna is to stick together and make sure that we just show everyone how much we love each other and how much we support each other because that is something I wish I did more for Briauna," said Moreno.
"Fly high, Briauna. We love you," said Gonzalez.