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GCU community mourns two students killed in east AZ crash

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Posted at 12:34 PM, Apr 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-08 01:17:05-04

PHOENIX — Three weeks until Grand Canyon University seniors graduate, and two won't be in attendance: Kelli Ingle and Chelsea Valladeres.

Grand Canyon University officials confirmed that 21-year-old Chelsea Nicole Valladares and 22-year-old Kelli Ingle died after a crash on Interstate 40 in eastern Arizona near the New Mexico border.

According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, just after 11 a.m. April 2, a sedan was traveling eastbound when it drifted and struck a guardrail. Moments later, the sedan was struck by a tractor-trailer. A passenger in the sedan died at the scene while the driver was taken to a hospital in Gallup, New Mexico in critical condition.

Further details on the crash haven't been released.

Valladares, of Harbor City, California, was a senior studying Business Management while Ingle, of Albuquerque, NM, was studying Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, according to GCU and Kelli's brother Matthew Scott Ingle.

Nathan Dwyer, friend and classmate of Kelli Ingle and Chelsea Valladeres says, "We has just gotten our caps and gowns and we're talking about the day of graduation and how we're going to celebrate."

Ingle says, "My sister Kelli and her best friend Chelsea were headed home for the weekend."

The two were traveling from the Valley to visit Kelli's family in Albuquerque. The roommates and best friends were involved in a horrible crash with another car. Kelli was behind the wheel.

"They've made that trip 1,000 times," says Ingle. "They were close. We feel like Chelsea's part of our family. And I know they feel like Kelli is a part of theirs."

Kelli's brother was at work when he learned the news. Her injuries were so severe, she became brain dead and later died.

"It's been obviously a nightmare, but each day is getting a little bit better, especially with the help from our friends," Ingle says.

"She was a huge part of the community at Grand Canyon University," says Ingle. "She was an RA there. She had so many friends."

The two students were roommates in Ocotillo Hall and were members of the GCU family since 2018. They were members of Pure Heart Church where they supported youth in the junior high program.

Friends say her door was always open.

Dwyer says, "Just really being a role model for just young girls to look up to and I know that they did."

Although gone, Kelli is leaving behind a priceless gift to strangers. Ingle says, "She's going to be able to be an organ donor and just save so many lives."

Kelli and Chelsea's loved ones leaning on their faith during this heartbreak.

Dwyer says, "Kelli and Chelsea are in a far better place now. And we all have peace knowing that we will see them again someday."

A celebration of life for Kelli and Chelsea will happen Wednesday, April 14 at GCU from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Kelli's family has a GoFundMe to raise money for funeral costs.