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Teen dies in crash after birthday celebration
This story has been modified from its original version that ran in print.
Kayla Lizama-Pierson spent her 18th birthday on Saturday among family and friends.
The lively Yuba City teenager started the day with a cake fight in her parents' kitchen — a spontaneous part of her birthday sleepover — took a trip to the movies and to a restaurant for a birthday lunch.
But a late-night drive south of Yuba City on Garden Highway turned tragic when the Honda Civic she was riding in left the road and struck a tree.
The driver, Natalie Boutilier, escaped the wreck uninjured, according to Summer Taylor, a family friend. But Lizama-Pierson was pronounced dead at Rideout Regional Medical Center at around midnight.
"They were going out to visit friends," Taylor said. "They just lost control."
Two friends following in a second Honda Civic witnessed the accident and called 911, Taylor said.
The California Highway Patrol would not provide additional information Sunday.
According to a dispatcher who refused to be identified, the accident occurred on Highway 99.
"Kayla always had a smile on her face, and her smile was contagious," said Billy McLendon, a schoolmate at River Valley High School. Lizama-Pierson graduated in May.
Dave Harris, a River Valley High School performing arts teacher, said the boisterous teenager was in his choir class.
"She had a very big laugh," he said. "I remember hearing her from all the way across the quad and thinking, 'Oh. There's Kayla.'"
"I knew her as a bright and beautiful girl that always smiled," said River Valley English teacher Jamie Harvey.
"My heart is broken. The tears won't stop," a friend posted on Facebook on Sunday. "I still don't understand how someone so filled with life can be gone."
"It seems like just yesterday we were passing notes in English class," said Kaydee Rapp, 16, also a 2012 River Valley graduate.
Lizama-Pierson was attending classes at Yuba College and recently got a job at Aeropostale, a clothing store in the Yuba Sutter Mall that caters to teenagers.
On Saturday morning, Lizama-Pierson, her friend Sierra Gonzalez and several family members waited in line in the rain for tickets to the new "Twilight" movie, according to Gonzalez.
They got in to see the 10:30 a.m. screening.
"One thing you should know was her family was the most important thing in her life," Rodriguez said. "She loved hanging with her friends and taking pictures, putting smiles on people's faces, dancing, and just having a good time."