Coed's death leaves questions
The death of Veronica Guzman in an apparent single-car accident has left unanswered questions for those investigating the crash - and those left to wonder what the 19-year-old college student from Biggs could have accomplished had she lived.
California Highway Patrol officers are looking into how Guzman, a sophomore at California State University, Chico, ran her sport-utility vehicle into an irrigation channel off the arrow-straight Midway, four miles north of Richvale in Butte County.
On Monday morning, a helicopter pilot from the Butte County Sheriff's Department found the wreck of Guzman's Honda CR-V, hidden by an embankment and dense brush, eight days after the woman disappeared from campus.
The Honda was steered sharply, then rolled over at least twice before tumbling into four to five feet of water, according to CHP Officer Sean Fischer.
“She probably drifted onto the right shoulder, corrected to the left and then steered too hard to the right,” said Fischer, the lead investigator on the crash. “But we'll never know what caused her to initially react.”
He cautioned that the accident site's remoteness - only rice dryers and a few homes break up the Midway's monotonous stretch of rice fields from Durham to Biggs - means there were likely no witnesses to the accident.
An autopsy on Guzman has been completed and results probably will be released in six weeks, said Lt. Dennis Cooley of the Sheriff's Department.
At Chico State, professors spoke of the promise they had seen in Guzman, who had recently begun studies in her major of sociology. One instructor, Cynthia Siemsen, described her as a bright but shy sort who was blossoming into a top-rank student - so much so that Siemsen urged her to pursue a sociology scholarship.
“I learned that she loved to read, that she loved her family and that she has wonderful friends,” Siemsen said Wednesday. “One thing you learn as a professor is that you can tell a student's character by the friends they keep, and her friends are just top-notch. They all are still continuing to come to school, even though it's hurting them - but that's how important education is to this group of girls.”
Police said Guzman's parents, sister and brother in Biggs were in seclusion and accompanied by officers. A woman who answered the telephone at the family home declined to comment.
A group of Chico State students and instructors are planning a memorial fund to help cover Guzman's funeral expenses, several faculty members reported. Funeral arrangements were pending as of Wednesday night.
Faculty members said a campus memorial event for Guzman is planned, but no date has been announced. On the day of the memorial, the flag in front of the Kendall Hall administration building will be flown at half-staff, according to Joe Wills, a university spokesman.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Howard Yune can be reached at 749-4708. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.