A 19-year-old Lawrence woman, who was a recent Lawrence High School graduate, died in a two-vehicle crash early Thursday morning in southwest Lawrence.
Lawrence police said it would likely take several days or longer to determine if speed or alcohol, or both, contributed to the accident.
“We’re not saying whose fault the accident is at this point,” said Sgt. Matt Sarna, a Lawrence police spokesman. “Of course we have to go through everything and see exactly what led to the circumstances that caused this tragic accident. That’s exactly what it is.”
Lawrence police did say Mary Paez, a 2010 LHS graduate, died in the accident at 1:30 a.m. Thursday at the intersection of Clinton Parkway and Inverness Drive.
Police said Paez drove a Nissan Sentra that appeared to be headed south on Inverness Drive and entered the intersection on a flashing red light. A 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee driven west on Clinton Parkway by 22-year-old Sean Walker of Overland Park struck the driver’s side of the Sentra.
Sarna said officers believed the Jeep went into the intersection on a flashing yellow light. He also said they believed Paez had made a complete stop at the flashing red light before entering the intersection.
Walker was treated at the scene for a head injury, but medics did not take him to the hospital. Both vehicles sustained substantial damage.
Paez’s friends on Thursday said they were shocked to hear the news.
“She was always happy. She was never really upset about anything, and she was really beautiful and smart and strong,” said Jorica Rapada, who graduated at LHS with Paez. “When I had problems she would always be there and tell me the right things.”
Rapada said she and Paez both had Filipino heritage and that their families were close.
Catherine Morel, a 2010 Free State High School graduate, was friends with Paez when they attended Hillcrest Elementary School. They would often still send text messages to each other.
“She was always really caring. I’ve never seen her be mean to anyone, and I know everyone’s going to miss her a lot,” Morel said. “She was such a good person.”
Rapada said Paez had worked at Arby’s restaurant while in high school, had taken time off after she graduated and was likely looking for a job.
Sarna said police had not issued any citations in connection with the accident on Thursday. The coroner’s office was also assisting with the investigation. He said because it was a fatality accident officers also drew Walker’s blood for testing.
Police encouraged anyone with information about the fatality accident to call police at 832-7650 or Douglas County Crime Stoppers at (785) 843-TIPS.