Anna R. Rivera, a 2002 graduate of Ashland High School, was in the back seat of a car that police said spun out of control after striking another vehicle about 10 p.m. Wednesday on Interstate 84 in Union, Conn., less than 50 miles from her home.
Rivera, who dreamed of a career in public service, worked for City Year, a Boston-based nonprofit that places young people in schools and neighborhoods for a year of community service.
Stunned friends stopped by Rivera's mother's home in Ashland with flowers and food all day yesterday, grieving for a woman so energetic and forthright that one compared her to a "halogen headlight."
"She was vibrant," said Hank Baumgartner, a longtime friend of Rivera's family who drove three hours from Bailey Island, Maine, to be with Rivera's mother and sister. "She was always alive -- energetic, bright, cheerful. She was feisty. And as cute as a button, my God."
In Connecticut, State Police Trooper Jay Gershowitz said authorities are investigating the accident that killed Rivera and injured three others. Police said Rivera was sitting in the back seat of a 1996 Pontiac driven by a friend, Nicholas J. Eromin, 20, of Ashland. Another friend, Brian J. Marderosian, 19, of Westborough, was sitting in the front.
Police said the Pontiac was eastbound on I-84 behind a 1998 Audi driven by Hana Murch, 32, of Boston, and carrying Wai C. Lam, 34, of Jamaica Plain. The Pontiac apparently struck the Audi, causing both cars to careen off the highway. The Audi rolled onto its side and the Pontiac struck a guardrail, flipped over, and came to rest on the median, police said.
Murch was released from Harrington Memorial Hospital in Southbridge after being treated for minor injuries, police said. Eromin and Marderosian also suffered minor injuries and were released from Hartford Hospital, police said.
Eromin, Marderosian, and Rivera were friends from high school, said Rivera's father, Marco. Sitting in his living room in Framingham yesterday, his voice occasionally shaking, he remembered his daughter as an outspoken young woman whose work with urban youth inspired her stepbrother to join City Year.
Rivera was so dedicated to the young people she worked with in Harlem that she hung photographs of them in her room for inspiration, he said. Rivera also had a quick, engaging lighter side. She played Ultimate Frisbee at Ashland High and loved animals, especially dogs.
"She was very aware of people in need, and it troubled her," said Marco Rivera. "She wanted to do something about it. She was one of a kind, that's for sure."
In addition to her father and her mother, Teri Wysor, Rivera leaves a sister, Sarah; and two stepbrothers, Luke and Taylor Wiley. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Rivera's death was one of two traffic fatalities involving people from Massachusetts on Wednesday. A Mashpee man, who celebrated his 55th birthday and 15th wedding anniversary this month, was killed after the car he was driving crashed into some trees off Interstate 89 in New Hampshire.
Herbert F. Hinners, a retired service manager at the Lincoln Mercury dealer in Hyannis, apparently fell asleep at the wheel as he returned home from Acworth, N.H., about 3:20 p.m., his family said last night.
"He dozed off and went off the road, into a stand of trees, and was killed instantly," said his wife, Mary .
The couple celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary Nov. 12, two days before Hinners turned 55.
Mary Hinners said her husband got up early Wednesday to drive from Mashpee to their Acworth home to do some renovation work. Because he got up so early, he may have been too tired to concentrate on the road as he drove home, his wife said.
New Hampshire State Police said Hinners, who was not wearing a seat belt, was trapped inside his 2002 Jeep Liberty and died before firefighters could remove his body from the wreck.
Steve Kenneally, his stepson, said Hinners was very "tool-savvy" and did a lot of repairs around the home and on cars. "He enjoyed working with his hands," he said. "He kept himself busy with projects."
Hinners also leaves two children from a previous marriage, David, 34, of Troy, N.Y., and Cynthia, 32, of Oakland, Calif.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.