Students lost in car accident remembered at Eastern


By Jane Martin, Editor-in-Cheif

The EWU community lost Nancy Zepeda and Ashley Gonzales, both EWU students, when the Volkswagen Jetta they were riding in with two other students collided with a semi just south of Colfax, Wash., on Feb. 21.

A memorial service will be held on campus for both women at 2 p.m. on March 3 in the Showalter Auditorium, with a reception afterward, according to Dave Meany, EWU director of media relations.

The women were heading north on U.S. Highway 195 when the car lost control, spinning sideways before it was hit by a semi traveling in the opposite direction, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Neither Zepeda nor Gonzales was wearing a seatbelt and both were pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the semi was uninjured. WSP is still investigating to determine the exact cause of the accident.

Erica Polito, who was driving the car, and Carmen Gomez were injured in the accident. Polito was airlifted to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and is still in critical condition, according to information on Eastern 24/7. Gomez was taken to a hospital in Whitman County and then released.

All four women are involved in the Chicano education program at EWU. Both Zepeda and Polito were members of the Alpha Pi Sigma sorority; Zepeda was the chapter president. After the accident, the sorority put together a fundraising drive to assist the families of Zepeda, Gonzales and Polito.

At press time, the fundraiser website had collected $3,115. In a letter shared with the EWU community, President Rodolfo Arévalosaid, “All four involved in the crash were female students who are participating in the Chicano education program and other student programs on campus. They have provided leadership to a number of university organizations, so their loss will be felt campus wide. This is a very difficult day for the whole EWU community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families and friends of the victims.”

Ayesha Malik, an active Alpha Pi Sigma sister, said she first met Zepeda at a Succeeding As One booth during Neighbor Fest. Succeeding As One was the group Nancy began before Alpha Pi Sigma became a reality at Eastern.

“She was one of the first friends I met at Eastern,” Malik said. “She was so inviting … I signed up on the spot. I was convinced just by her personality.”

Zepeda’s funeral Mass was held at 11 a.m. Feb. 25 at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Quincy, Wash., according to her obituary in The Wenatchee World.

A viewing and rosary for Gonzales was scheduled for Feb. 26 at St. Patrick Catholic Parish in Pasco, Wash. Her funeral will be held there on Feb. 27 at 11 a.m., according to Mueller’s Greenlee Funeral Home in Pasco.

Gonzales’ father, Max Gonzales, described his daughter as an amazing person who always had a smile on her face, loved to coach and enjoyed watching her sisters play basketball.

“She was a friend to everyone,” he said. “She was always there for people when they needed help.”

Max Gonzales said the last time he saw his daughter was Feb. 19, “two days before this happened.”

Malik described Gonzalez as a very dedicated interested sister of Alpha Pi Sigma, who regularly showed up for fundraisers and events, even though she had not been through the entire process of joining.

“I was just getting to know her,” Malik said. “We made her an honorary member … she will be in the Omega chapter, made for our fallen calla lilies.”

Malik said that as an establishing member of Alpha Pi Sigma in 2013, Zepeda had created a wonderful way to connect and inspired those around her.

“The sororities [on campus] weren’t as inviting as she wanted them to be, so she said, ‘Screw it, I’ll start my own,’” Malik said. “Nancy knew she was starting something big, but I don’t think she knew what a big impact she had on all of us.”

Ashley Gonzales
        Ashley Gonzales            Photo courtesy of Max and Odulia Gonzales
Photo courtesy of Ayesha Malik
           Nancy Zepeda            Photo courtesy of Ayesha Malik