Loved ones of three South Jersey teens who were killed during a Memorial Day accident involving a car and a bus are now seeking the public's help for funeral costs.
Tevin Campbell, 18, of Absecon, Kira Strider, 14, of Pleasantville and Amber Fernandez, 16, of Pleasantville, all died on Monday after a car collided with an NJ Transit bus in Pleasantville, NJ.
Investigators say 18-year-old Melissa Rodriguez of Pleasantville was driving on Monday, around 1:50 p.m. northbound on Franklin Boulevard. Six passengers, including Fernandez, Campbell and Strider, were inside the vehicle at the time.
As she was driving, police say an NJ Transit bus, driven by 69-year-old Carmen Mazzagatti Jr. of Galloway Township, was also traveling on Franklin Boulevard near the intersection of Old Turnpike Road.
According to investigators, Rodriguez suddenly crossed the center line and struck the bus head-on.
Campbell and Strider were pronounced dead at the scene. Fernandez was taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead shortly after midnight.
"We will miss her," said Linda Gonzalez, Fernandez's aunt, during an interview with NBC40. "But like we said, she's in a better place and God took her because there's a reason for it. She was just a beautiful person inside and out. She was always happy."
Pleasantville city officials told NBC40 that the families of the victims are struggling financially, making it difficult for them to pay for the funeral services.
"The two girls were very close," said Pleasantville Police Chief Jose Ruiz. "They were always together and it was the family's idea to keep them together. Their services are going to be together and there was information that they wanted to be buried together - and with that comes an added expense. So that's what we're trying to do."
Officials hope to raise $5,000 to help the families cover the funeral costs and are asking for the public's help.
"We're trying to reach as many people as possible in a short period of time…I'm speaking from my heart," Chief Ruiz said. "Please, this is not the way it's supposed to be. You know, we're not supposed to bury our kids."
Donations may be made to the Kira Strider Fund c/o Ocean City Home Bank, 1777 New Road, Linwood, NJ 08221. A viewing will also be held for Tevin Campbell at 3 p.m. at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville.