MERCED, Calif. - A Merced community is grieving the loss of a teenager -- taken too soon. 16-year-old Riley Hanson died in a car crash last Sunday night on highway 99 in the Sacramento area. Loved ones held a vigil Thursday night in her memory.
Her light is everlasting. You might say Riley lives through each one of them as they danced just for her on a night of mourning. Overcome with heartbreaking emotion, El Capitan High School's color guard broke down in tears, knowing Riley Hanson isn't dancing next to them.
Last Sunday -- a car crash in Sacramento killed the teen as she sat in the passenger seat.
"I couldn't believe it you know. Is this some kind of nightmare that I'm gonna wake up from eventually?," asked Katie Escobar, Riley's stepsister.
Riley's stepsisters Hannah and Katie were her best friends.
"I wait for every night. I watch her favorite show "Supernatural", hoping that she'll come home," said Hannah.
The 16-year-old's passion was color guard, about to turn 17 at the end of October and set to graduate in 2019. She was known as "Smiley Riley".
"She had a way of just making you feel good and happy and she had that way of just pouring that light onto you with a big smile," said Matt Escobar, Riley's stepdad.
Hundreds of people came to pay respect and show support for Riley's mother.
"She's the strongest woman I know," said Hannah.
A family now missing its brightest smile.
"We loved her more than anything," said Hannah.
If you'd like to donate to the family, here's the link to the GoFundMe page: www.gofundme.com/smiley-riley