NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Almost two decades after a drunk-driving crash altered Tori Lynn Andreozzi’s life forever, friends of the family say the 31-year-old has passed away.
On March 26, 2003, Tori was hit by a drunken driver, leaving her with a severe brain injury. She was 12 at the time, but defied the odds and survived and learned to live with the condition.
Following the crash, Tori’s mother Cathy created the Tori Lynn Andreozzi Foundation, an organization that “educates young people about good decision-making, informs the community about ways it can make a difference, promotes legislation that improves highway safety, draws awareness to traumatic brain injury, and supports families dealing with tragedy.”
Dante Bellini met Tori and Cathy two years after the crash through working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). He remained close to the family ever since.
“When you meet Tori, it’s impossible to forget Tori. She was a force of nature,” Bellini told 12 News.
Bellini said Tori had been in hospice care at home in recent weeks. Despite heroic actions from doctors, therapists, caregivers, and family over the years, Tori passed away Tuesday morning, according to Bellini.
“Tori has lived with this traumatic brain injury for so long. But her little body just said, ‘OK, that’s enough,” he added. “Tori was just tired and wanted to go.”
Bellini said he saw Tori just the day before and kissed her on the forehead.
“She was radiant. She had an aura of peace around her,” Bellini recalled.
Tori’s brain injury from the 2003 crash left her unable to walk or speak, but Bellini said her legacy will be that she spoke volumes through her eyes.
“If you were fortunate enough to meet her, you came away with a sense that you had just met something really special and it had a tremendous impact on your life. And there are countless, thousands of people who can attest to that,” Bellini said.
Bellini worked with Cathy and Tori in recent years, featuring the mother and daughter in his Ripple Effect campaign for the R.I. Department of Transportation Office of Highway Safety.
“When someone chooses an action, we have no idea just how far that devastation will go,” Cathy Andreozzi said in the video.
The campaign ends with a message: “the effects of your drunk driving go way beyond you.”
Before the 2003 crash, Tori was a champion black belt in karate and also interested in dance.
In 2019, she defied the odds again when she competed in the Fred Astaire National Dance Championships in Orlando as the only seated dancer in the Showcase competition. A few judges gave Tori and her partner a perfect score, and she ended up winning the Top Showcase Performance.
“Tori swam with the dolphins, she danced, she was in a Benny’s commercial,” Bellini said.
“She did so many things over the years, simply because Cathy wanted her to experience as much life as possible,” he added.
Bellini said the foundation and its work will go on even though Tori has passed.
“Tori is going to be just so severely missed in life,” Bellini said. “Her legacy will never be forgotten. Her light will never be diminished.”