School community mourns death of Malverne sophomore

Cindy Garcia, 15, left, and Elizabeth Garcia Gamez, Cindy Garcia, 15, left, and Elizabeth Garcia Gamez, 13, were in a car that crashed into a sedan making a U-turn. Cindy Garcia was killed while Elizabeth Garcia Gamez was critically injured. Photo Credit: Handout

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A 15-year-old girl killed in a nighttime Valley Stream crash that critically injured her sister, was identified by school district officials as a Malverne High sophomore on the way home from her Sweet 16 party rehearsal.

Malverne school district officials said sisters Cindy Garcia, 15, and Elizabeth Garcia Gamez, 13, both of Lynbrook, were in a 2000 Toyota when it collided with a Toyota Camry. Police said a 19-year-old man was driving the 2000 Toyota with the sisters as passengers at the time of the crash, just before 9:30 p.m. Monday on West Merrick Road near Boden Avenue.

The Camry was in front and attempting a U-turn when the vehicles collided, police said.

One victim, identified by district officials as Cindy Garcia, was taken to Winthrop-University Hospital and pronounced dead there an hour later, police said. The other victim, identified by Malverne school officials as Elizabeth Garcia Gamez, was described by those who knew her as a scholar athlete at Howard T. Herber Middle School. The surviving sister was in critical condition Tuesday at Winthrop with severe head and body injuries, police said.

Neither the 19-year old male driver of the car carrying the sisters, nor the 31-year-old Camry driver were injured, authorities said. No charges were filed in the crash, and police said no criminality was suspected although the investigation is continuing.

In a written message directed to the Malverne school community, Malverne Superintendent James Hunderfund wrote that Elizabeth "has a warm personality and is extremely well-loved by her teachers and peers."

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At Malverne, some students learned of Garcia's death early Tuesday.

"There were just breakdowns all over the building," said Principal Vincent Romano.

School officials said a crisis intervention team was on hand Tuesday. Some classmates talked about putting Garcia's picture on her desk to remember her, said social studies teacher Brian China.

Garcia played the flute in the symphonic band, said band teacher Erin Lynch.

Shannon Kelly, Garcia's science teacher, said that when she smiled, it was so bright "she should have been in orthodontist commercials."

Kelly said after struggling at the beginning, Garcia worked hard to get caught up, often, staying for help sessions. Kelly said it was a glimpse into the teenager's character.

"She had this perseverance; it made you want to see her succeed," Kelly said. "The other students loved her and cherished her."

Monday, Garcia arrived early, shortly after 7 a.m., to take her science Regents examinations, Kelly said. That evening, she and Kelly talked briefly about the state tests.

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"I think I did really well," Kelly recalled her saying.

One of Kelly's students, a member of Garcia's Sweet 16 court, showed Kelly a speech he wrote about his now-departed friend that he had planned to read aloud at the party. She told him it was perfect.

The first line was about a young girl with a beautiful smile.

With Ellen Yan

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