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‘No parent should ever lose their child like that’: Teenage girls in Rohnert Park crash identified

Gabriel Overshiner-Juarez hoped to light a candle for his friend Lorena Recendez-Martinez on Monday afternoon, but there were so many candles at the makeshift memorial erected along Golf Course Drive he had trouble finding the specific one he wanted.

The 16-year-old Santa Rosa resident said Monday’s visit to the Rohnert Park memorial was his third since learning that Recendez-Martinez, 17, and 16-year-old Los Angeles resident Amada Guadalupe Salinas-Agular, had been killed Saturday night.

“I didn’t want to leave her,” he said of Recendez-Martinez, who he first met through a mutual friend a few years ago. “I wanted to stay here forever.”

Police identified Rohnert Park resident Recendez-Martinez as the driver and Salinas-Agular as the passenger in a violent single-car crash that was so devastating even veteran police officers were taken aback at the scene.

Investigators believe the westbound Mercedes Coupe was traveling along Golf Course just before 9:30 p.m. Saturday when it struck the right curb while negotiating the curve of the roadway.

The car, authorities said, “jumped over the curb and hit two street signs and two trees, ultimately hitting” a light pole.

A witness told investigators it was traveling “well over the speed limit,” which is 40 mph on that section of Golf Course, according to Rohnert Park police Deputy Chief Aaron Johnson.

He described the damage to the car as “so severe” that it will be impossible to use the police department’s usual methods for determining a car’s speed prior to a wreck.

“The car actually was torn into pieces, and so the formulas that we would normally use to calculate impact don’t work in this scenario,” Johnson said, adding it was one of the worst wrecks he has seen in his more than 20 years as a police officer.

“It’s absolutely tragic,” he said.

Authorities suspect speed may have been a factor, but they are continuing to investigate. They are also piecing together a timeline of the girls’ movements prior to the crash.

Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with his friend’s photo, Overshiner-Juarez said he’d heard the girls were coming home from a graduation party at the time of the crash. He said he didn’t know much about Salinas-Agular, only that she was a relative of one of Recendez-Martinez’s friends.

He added that as many as 70 people attended a vigil for the girls on Sunday night.

It was held at the crash site along Golf Course near Roberts Lake Road and it seemed everyone who showed up brought a candle, flowers, balloons or photos of the teens.

The memorial was initially started at the base of a precariously leaning power pole that had been struck by the car.

But on Monday, according to a tweet from the city of Rohnert Park, city workers relocated all the balloons, candles, photos and flowers to a nearby tree so they could replace the damaged pole.

By late afternoon, members of Recendez-Martinez’s family arrived at the site to arrange and organize the memorial.

Funeral arrangements are pending and relatives didn’t want to speculate about what led to her death.

Her sister, 37-year-old Folsom resident Victoria Recendez, said Lorena had “one of the biggest hearts. Maybe too big for her body.”

Going into her senior year at Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park, Recendez-Martinez was a fan of soccer, makeup and animals, particularly cats. She showed interest in being a hairstylist or veterinarian. She also was very protective of her friends.

She was born in Santa Rosa and was the second-to-youngest of five kids – too young to die, her sister, Victoria, said, describing the past few days as “awful.”

“I’m supposed to go first, not her,” she said.

Recendez-Martinez’s family knew little about Salinas-Agular, only that her relatives from Los Angeles attended Sunday’s vigil and she was a relative of a friend.

Mayra Perez, superintendent at Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District, which includes Rancho Cotate High, said Monday that the district is on summer break, but officials have contacted school leaders and let them know emotional support is available should any students need to talk.

"Our counselors can meet with students virtually," Perez said. "If they need to come to school for in-person counseling they are more than welcome to do that too.

"It's always a tragedy when a young person loses their life. We want to remind our children that a vehicle is a vehicle. Take care of yourself, be cautious," she added. "I'm at a loss for words. No parent should ever lose their child like that.“

Staff writer Mya Constantino contributed to this story.

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at colin.atagi@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @colin_atagi.

You can reach Staff Writer Matt Pera at matthew.pera@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Matt__Pera.

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