Classmates hold spirit week to honor 7-year-old killed in I-435 crash, celebrate her favorite things

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's been almost a month since a crash on Interstate 435 killed two young girls, and on Friday, classmates of one of those girls honored her life with some of her favorite things.

It was late at night when a minivan stopped in the right lane of I-435 near the state line. Exactly why remains unclear, but a semitrailer smashed into it from behind.

The impact killed seven-year-old Ruth Vazquez and her one-year-old sister Teresa Vazquez. Their mother and two other children in the car survived.

On Friday, classmates at Compass in the Hickman Mills School District honored the young life of Ruth Vazquez, who was in first grade.

“When we first found out, it was the beginning of a nightmare,” said Mauricio Leon, Ruth’s uncle. “The family just wants to express how grateful and thankful they are for the community, for everybody that has been supporting us through this unfortunate event.”

One-year-old Teresa Vazquez and her seven-year-old sister Ruth Vazquez.

Leon translated for the girls' parents, Salomon Vazquez and Angelica Hernandez, who are still devastated over the loss of two of their four children.

“It’s going to be tough. It's going to be a very tough road for them," Leon said. "And just missing those steps in the morning, those little steps running around toward mom's bed just to wake her up and light up her world, as well as dad.”

Teresa and Ruth's family came to Compass on Friday. To honor Ruth’s life, the school held a spirit week to celebrate her favorite things.

“We have had quite a bit of support from this school district, teachers, everyone," Leon said. "Everyone has really supported us and helped us. We just want to thank them, as well, for everything they have done."

Besides school, Ruth’s family said she loved to sing and dance -- and play soccer. So Friday's theme was "Sporting Ruth," and there was a special guest.

Tim Melia, the goalkeeper for Sporting Kansas City, also visited the school to be a part of the assembly honoring Ruth.

“You can't comprehend what they`re going through," Melia said. "I have a 7-month-old, and I can't imagine losing two children and their thought process right now."

The whole Sporting KC team signed a shirt for the Vazquez family after hearing they were big soccer fans.

“It`s a lot of joy to see so many kids and friends of Ruth's, and now they can remember her,” Leon said, translating on behalf of Ruth’s parents. “It is very hard for me to speak. They were my girls.”