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Christine Dao, 20 -- Car Accident / Killed By Drunk Driver

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UC Berkeley junior Christine Dao was the kind of person who would drop everything and, with Oreos and chocolate in hand, drive an hour and a half to cheer up a friend.
It is her thoughtfulness and kind spirit that friends and family will miss most about Dao, 20, who died in a fatal car accident in West Berkeley yesterday morning.

The collision occurred about 2:45 a.m. near the intersection of University and San Pablo avenues, said Berkeley police Officer Shira Warren.

Dao and the other driver, who is currently under observation at Highland General Hospital in Oakland, were the only people involved in the accident, Warren said.

She could not provide further details about the circumstances of the collision.

Dao, a Richmond native, graduated from El Cerrito Senior High School in 2003, where she was senior class president and a member of the volleyball team. She was pursuing a psychology degree, had recently pledged Asian sorority Sigma Phi Omega, and planned to go to New York after graduation to study criminal law, said Anna Phan, Dao's mother.

Dao's friends gathered at the site of the crash last night to honor her memory with a candlelight vigil, which drew more than 150 people.

"She was just one of the good ones that shouldn't have been taken so soon," said junior Jimmy Finkes. "She's the kind of person that I really admire."

Finkes said he first met Dao at Costco in Richmond, where the two were co-workers, and then grew closer to her after taking two classes together. He said before he knew it, they were talking on the phone every other day.

Others at the memorial said this tendency to touch people was characteristic of Dao, who always knew how to make people laugh.

"She was so full of life, she just couldn't be normal," said Dao's best friend, Mariana Cavallin, a UC Davis junior. "She was an amazing person."

The memorial drew a number of people from the UC Davis campus, where several of Dao's close friends from high school are students.

"She was the most reliable friend," said Christy Saysompeth, a UC Davis sophomore. "If you were feeling sad, she would drive up to Davis like that with chocolate and Oreos to cheer you up."

At the service, Dao's friends recalled various aspects of her personality, from her loyal support of the San Francisco Giants to her love of the poem "Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and her dimples, which instantly endeared her to many people, Cavallin said.

Those at the service said Dao had left a legacy throughout her life.

"She was such a light. We were very proud of her," said George Austin, a teacher at El Cerrito. "A shiver went through the school when news of her death reached us. I saw so many teachers in tears."

Dao's mother, who came to the service from her home in Richmond, said she had spoken with her daughter Wednesday evening and was nervous about her driving home to Richmond after studying for a midterm next week. She echoed similar concerns for students present at the memorial.

"Everybody here must be careful when they drive," she said. "I knew my daughter would never do anything wrong, but that something bad could happen."



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