Friends and family of a 30-year-old Fresno woman killed in a crash near Coarsegold on Saturday are raising money for her funeral and voicing their anger about unsafe driving along the narrow and winding Highway 41 in eastern Madera County.
California Highway Patrol said Victoria Gomez was struck head-on by a man trying to pass a vehicle on Highway 41 just north of Yosemite Springs Parkway.
Gomez's friend Will Drosche made a Facebook page, "HW 41 Road awareness," in the wake of her death.
"My friend is not going to die in vain. … I know this may not be enough," he wrote of the page, "but I can’t deal with seeing the news of my friends dying on the road anymore."
Drosche said he hopes it will be used as a resource for people to report unsafe drivers after first calling law enforcement. Another one of his friends was previously seriously injured in a Highway 41 crash, he said.
Drosche said he's seen a lot of drunk and distracted driving, along with speeding, since he started working at Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold a couple years ago.
He said Gomez worked at a diner in the casino and at Metro PCS in Fresno, and that she was within weeks of leaving her casino job and being free of her commute into the foothills.
"I would like people to at least remember her as a very kind-hearted, very loving and down-to-earth person who always put anybody before herself," Drosche said, "and that she was a hard worker."
A GoFundMe donation page was created by Gomez's sister-in-law, Alyssa Fernandez, to raise money for funeral expenses.
"Victoria had a lot of love and ambition," the GoFundMe page reads, "she was very outgoing, loved to hike, and had her goals on finishing school. It's hard to see such a young soul leave us too soon. Any and all donations are appreciated."
Gomez was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash that happened just before 4 p.m. Saturday.
The man who struck her 2007 Chevrolet, Kai Eugene Kelikuli, 49, of Santa Maria, suffered major injuries. CHP said he wasn't wearing his seatbelt and the force of the collision threw him out of his 2015 Volkswagen.
The accident remains under investigation. CHP said on Saturday that the man did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol, but that drug impairment hadn't been ruled out.
Many of Gomez's friends have taken to social media to share memories of Gomez and condolences to her family.
One person recalled how Gomez worked as a canvasser for local Democratic political campaigns, calling her "an activist at heart – always looking for ways to be involved in important political causes."
Others called her sassy, strong, and a cat lover.
A few days before the fatal accident, Gomez shared a post on her Facebook page saying she was planning a trip to the Central Coast to watch whales.
On June 20, she shared an inspirational quote via the Power of Positivity Facebook page:
"Life is too short to wake up with regrets," the post reads. "So love the people who treat you right. Forget about those who don't. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it."
Drosche said of his friend, "I don't want her to just be remembered and forgotten. I want people to be aware of the circumstances (of her death) and that decisions that people make ultimately pay a price."