JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — A teenage driver was killed and two passengers were injured when their vehicle went off the road and struck a tree Monday afternoon.
According to Rhode Island State Police Captain Derek Borek, the car was heading south on I-295 when the crash occurred just north of Exit 4 around 2:30 p.m.
The driver has been identified as Lungpalinya Xaphouvong, 17, of 26 Cross St., Woonsocket. She was taken to Hasbro Children’s Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead.
Police said Xaphouvong was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. Her family said she was headed to the beach with her 3-year-old brother and a friend when she briefly took off her seat belt to help adjust her brother’s car seat.
The two other passengers in the vehicle were taken to Hasbro Children’s Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and later released. According to police, both were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash.
Family and friends gathered at Barry Memorial Field Tuesday night to pay tribute to a teenager who many said was the sunshine in their lives. Those who knew her said she was full of energy and loved theater, dance, music and food.
“It was always her smiling, dancing, jumping around… that was always her,” Kaylie Perrico said.
“Free spirit and just positive person to everybody,” Victoria Phoumi added. “Even if you didn’t know her, she’d run up to you and give you a hug.”
Xaphouvong’s grieving family was surrounded by the Woonsocket community Tuesday night. Many came with flowers, balloons and candles.
“She’s honestly one of the best people I’ve ever met in my entire life, and I don’t know what we’re going to do without her,” said Perrico.
“I really feel like she was like an angel. She really was,” Janaya Rollins said. “She was here to make everybody smile and she always had a positive vibe, no matter what she was going through. “