The 16-year-old Texas girl who died at a hospital Friday night after a carnival-ride accident at a church festival is being recalled as a standout student-athlete who was in the top 10% of her class at Hanks High School in El Paso. Samantha Aguilar "was very sweet and kind to everybody, and a beautiful young lady," her track coach tells the El Paso Times. Indeed, the teen's Instagram bio reads, "My purpose is to make people happy! If life is as short as I am then I shall cherish every living moment." A school district spokeswoman tells KVIA that the school community is "grief-stricken over the tragic loss." Aguilar was part of a trio of girls on the Sizzler at the Dia de Los Ninos celebration at the St. Thomas Aquinas church. Aguilar and a 15-year-old girl were ejected from the spinning ride.
Aguilar slammed into a metal barricade; the other teen was treated for a head injury, reports KVIA. A third girl was spared because she held tight to the ride's bars. The Rev. Ed Roden-Lucero, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas, says in a statement he is "shocked and saddened" by the tragedy, noting that the "Dia del Nino Fiesta was meant to celebrate God's blessing of family life and the great gift of children." The parish, he adds, will pay for Aguilar's funeral, and the Diocese of El Paso says it's cooperating with the police investigation. Media calls to Playtime Amusements, the owner of the ride now being investigated, have gone unanswered. (A father had to hang onto his son after a restraint apparently failed on a roller coaster.)