Jade Marie Dodson, the 18-year-old high school tennis star who died last week following a five-vehicle crash in Santa Maria allegedly caused by a driver high on drugs, was remembered Friday as a girl with a contagious smile and loving heart who always put the happiness of others first.
“Jade was an angel,” Deacon Dennis Pearson told a tearful, overflow crowd of hundreds in services at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in Santa Maria.
He described Dodson as a happy and vibrant teen and urged loved ones to remember the joy she brought.
“Remember the good times,” he said.
Cristian Iban Rodriguez Carbajal, 19, is accused of causing the June 18 collision that led to Dodson’s death the following day. He is charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence with enhancements for great bodily injury, and three felony counts of reckless driving causing great bodily injury. He remains in Santa Barbara County Jail with bail set at $500,000.
Police allege that Carbajal, under the influence of drugs, ran a red light at the intersection of Broadway and McCoy Lane, setting off a chain of collisions that also injured Dodson’s 7-year-old sister, who is now home, and a cousin still in critical condition at Cottage Hospital in Santa Maria.
Family and friends formed a long line to view the casket, which was surrounded by wreaths and picture boards of Dodson with friends.
“It’s just so sad,” said Helen Sanantonio, a friend of the family, as she looked for a place to sit. The walls were lined with people standing. Others listened from just beyond church doors. Some brought bouquets.
Sanantonio recalled how Dodson helped with the family store, De Bu Food Market in Santa Maria, and how close she was to her grandmother. Dodson would have turned 19 in August, she said.
“She helped them all the time,” Sanantonio said
“She had a unique kindness and a unique ability to put a smile on anyone’s face,” one cousin remembered.
Nearly everyone spoke of her smile and laugh and how her kindness had changed their lives.
“I wouldn’t have the friends I have now if it wasn’t for Jade,” one friend said, trying not to cry.
Dodson planned to attend Hancock College in the fall. Friend say she hadn’t decided on a major, but she was thinking about either astronomy or something in health care.
A funeral mass will be held today at 9:30 a.m., also at Saint Mary’s, with burial to follow at the Santa Maria Cemetery.