Crash Victim Mourned on First Day of School in Irvine

Marie Johnson was killed early Monday morning when the 19-year-old driver of a car in which she was riding crashed on a canyon road

Students returned to Irvine High School for the first day of school Tuesday just hours after learning about the death of a 16-year-old classmate involved in crash on a twisting canyon road.

Marie "Lizzie" Johnson was a passenger in a vehicle operated by a 19-year-old driver. Marie was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash near Santiago Canyon Road and Silverado Canyon Road, about 20 miles northeast of Irvine.

"We are going to be taking one hour at a time and we're going to be taking one day at a time," said Irvine High School Principal Dr. Monica Colunga.

Marie had just arrived home from a family trip to Hawaii on Sunday night. In an email to the high school community, Colunga noted that Marie celebrated her 16th birthday in June.

Marie was ejected from the vehicle operated by 19-year-old Antonio Escamilla, who was released from the hospital Tuesday after treatment for injuries suffered in the crash. CHP officers are still conducting an investigation into the crash, and Escamilla was not in police custody Tuesday at mid-day. 

"The suspect was released from the hospital and there's currently an ongoing investigation which the CHP and the Orange County District Attorney's Office is involved in," said CHP Officer Armando Garcia. "He is not in custody."

After the initial crash investigation, officers said they discovered cans of beer at the scene.

Escamilla's Honda Civic was traveling at speeds of about 70 mph before the 2 a.m. crash, according to crash investigators.

He graduated from Irvine High School last year. It was not immediately clear whether others in the car and another occupied by a second group of friends are Irvine High School students.

The school district planned to provide extra counselors for students. Counselors also were on the campus in May when four Irvine High School students and one University High School student died in a fiery crash.

"I can't believe this happened again in less than a year," said senior Ted Kwon. "It's a bad start to the school year and everyone will be down."

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