EAST WHITTIER >> Loved ones are devastated by the death of a vivacious Azusa woman who was struck and killed by a wrong-way driver in East Whittier early on New Year’s Day.
Corina Villarreal, 54, died in Thursday’s 1:30 a.m. crash on First Avenue, just north of Candlelight Drive, in the unincorporated county area just east of Whittier, according to Los Angeles County coroner and California Highway Patrol officials.
Matthew George Tapia, 24, of Santa Ana also died in the crash, according to the CHP. Villarreal and Tapia were each the lone occupants of their vehicles.
Villarreal drove a Lexus IS 250 north on First Avenue just prior to the crash, CHP officials said in a written statement. Tapia drove a 1999 Isuzu trooper south. The SUV drifted over the double-yellow line and collided head-on into the Lexus. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
Family members gathered Friday at her home to mourn their loss.
“Everybody’s devastated. She walked into a room and just brightened it every time. She had a great way about her. She always looked at the positives.”
Ernesto Villarreal said his cousin had been celebrating the New Year with a friend in the Whittier area and had car trouble, he said. She was borrowing her friend’s car when the crash occurred.
Corina Villarreal grew in Azusa, where she spend most of her life, and attended Azusa High School, family members said. She also lived in La Mirada for a period during a former marriage.
She worked for Southern California Edison, Ernesto Villarreal said.
Corina Villarreal had no children, but was very close with her nieces and nephews, family said. She was an avid fan of the Raiders and Dodgers, who enjoyed going to the stadium or riding on the back of Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
“She enjoyed life, and she wanted those around her to have the same level of joyfulness.”
Cousin Renee Villarreal said Corina Villarreal left behind friends from coast to coast.
“She was a very personable person and she was able to touch a lot of lives,” she said. “She always made you feel like you were important and special, and she would give you the shirt off her back.”
A fund to help the Villarreal family with funeral costs has been set up online on gofundme.com at www.gofundme.com/jlqjfc.
TOP – Photo of crash scene by Troy Case, Correspondent
2nd FROM TOP: – Photo of Corina Villarreal (courtesy).
3rd FROM TOP: Corina Villarreal, 54, of Azusa, died early Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, in a head-on collision in East Whittier after another vehicle crossed into the wrong direction of travel on First Avenue, slamming into the car she was driving. Villarreal (left) is pictured in this undated photo with boyfriend Joe Chubbs. (Courtesy)
BOTTOM: Corina Villarreal, 54, of Azusa, died early Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, in a head-on collision in East Whittier after another vehicle crossed into the wrong direction of travel on First Avenue, slamming into the car she was driving. Villarreal (left) is pictured in this undated photo with friends Gina Morga (center) and Terri Morga (right).