Family mourns teen's death in crash, thanks community for help

Kayla Villanueva, 17, killed Sunday on I-37

By Garrett Brnger - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Kayla Villanueva's mother is left with only memories and mementos of her 17-year-old daughter.

"I can still smell her scent on it, you know?" Maria Esperanza Levine said, clutching Kayla's Finding Nemo stuffed animal.

Villanueva was killed Sunday after the stranded car she was in on Interstate 37, near Donop Road, was hit from behind. The other three people in the car, which her family said included Villanueva’s boyfriend, were injured, as was the driver of the other vehicle.

Villanueva was airlifted to University Hospital, where she died a few hours later, leaving behind unfinished dreams.

"She wanted to go to St. Mary's, and she was going to be a cosmetologist," Levine said.

Her aunt, Elizabeth Levine Herrera, said Kayla had a good heart.

"She was close to all her cousins, to everybody. She never left anybody out. If she would have just met you that day, you were her friend. No matter what," she said.

Villanueva’s death has left her family dealing with grief and unexpected funeral costs. The support of family, friends and strangers at a plate sale on Saturday helped relieve some of the financial burden.

“It turned out to be a great turnout. Now my granddaughter could rest in peace with a good funeral service,” said Margie Villanueva, Kayla Villanueva’s grandmother.

Margie Villanueva said friends, family members, co-workers and even Sam’s Club donated a lot of the items for the plate sale. All the help has her feeling grateful, and she hopes that parents will take care of their children.

“Say you love them before they leave the house, ‘cause you never know when they're not coming back,” Margie Villanueva said.

Another plate sale fundraiser will be held from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday at 4500 S. Zarzamora St.

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