The crash happened on April 2 just after 11 p.m. on eastbound Interstate 40 near milepost 359 when a car drifted left and hit the guardrail before it was hit by a tractor-trailer, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said in a statement to GCU.
A passenger in the car was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver was taken to a New Mexico hospital in critical condition.
On Thursday, GCU identified the victims as Chelsea Nicole Valladares, a 21-year-old senior from Harbor City, California, and Kelli Ingle, a 22-year-old senior from Albuquerque.
Valladares was studying business management. Ingle was studying biochemistry and molecular biology and was also a resident assistant in Ocotillo Hall.
"They were roommates, have been members of the GCU family since 2018 and embodied the spirit of GCU as members of Pure Heart Church where they supported youth in the junior high program," a GCU spokesperson said in a statement to FOX 10.
‘They were together doing what they loved to do’
A celebration of life for the two was held on April 13 at GCU, and family members say Chelsea and Kelli were not just friends – but more like sisters.
"I pictured them being in each other’s weddings and being there for babies, they were going to live together," said Erica Valladares, Chelsea's mother.
Now, she envisions them in heaven, and Chelsea being reunited with her younger sister Lexi, who passed away 12 years ago.
The two often took road trips together to California where Chelsea is from, and to New Mexico where Kelli is from.
"I mean, that brings me joy knowing that they were together doing what they loved to do," Valladares said.
Chelsea majored in business, and already had aced an interview and was ready to start her career after graduation. Chelsea’s mother is proud of her, for having achieved her goals, and faithfully serving the community.
"Chelsea was thriving here. The last 4 years she was thriving and she was living her best life," her mother said. "Ultimately, Chelsea had arrived. Chelsea had made it. She had her whole life lined up."
The two seniors would have attended their respective graduation ceremonies in just over a week. Instead, their parents will be there and will accept the diplomas on their behalf.
Chelsea earned her bachelor’s degree in business management and Kelli earned her degree in biochemistry and microbiology.
This story was reported from Phoenix.
Chelsea Valladares (left) and Kelli Ingle (Valladares family)
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