Sarah Wong had long talked about the idea of attending school in Seattle.
She was passionate about protecting the environment, always carrying around her own reusable straws, said friend Lauren Tan, who first met Wong in kindergarten. Wong was looking to attend a smaller school and had a plan to become a neonatal nurse.
So she jumped at the opportunity to move last year from her hometown in South Pasadena, California, to attend college at Seattle Pacific University.
During her freshman year at SPU, she lived in Emerson Hall and explored a potential major in nursing, SPU said. Two weeks ago, she danced in a cultural event showcasing the Pacific Islander community. In recent days, she had talked with Tan about their plans for when this school year was complete and they would be back together in California.
But on Saturday, as Wong and another SPU student were traveling in a vehicle on Mercer Street in Seattle, they were struck by a falling construction crane that killed four people. The other student in Wong’s vehicle somehow managed to escape unharmed, according to an email SPU officials sent to students. Wong, 19, was among those killed.
“My initial thought was that this couldn’t actually be happening,” Tan said about hearing the news.
Tan said Wong touched a lot of lives in her time on Earth. “She spread so much love, encouragement and kindness to everyone around her,” Tan said.
The other three people killed in the collapse on Saturday were former Seattle city employee Alan Justad, 74, who was also driving on Mercer Street, and ironworkers Andrew Yoder, 31, of North Bend, and Travis Corbet, 33, of Oregon, who were working on the crane when it plunged off the building.
All four deaths were ruled accidental.
Four other people were injured in the collapse. One was treated by medics at the scene, and the others, including a 25-year-old mother and her 4-month-old baby, were taken to Harborview Medical Center. The mother and child were discharged late Saturday.
The fourth person, a 28-year-old man, was still at Harborview in satisfactory condition Monday, said hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg.
Wong’s parents came to the SPU campus Sunday and had an opportunity to meet with some of her friends in the area and visit Wong’s local church, said Nate Mouttet, the university’s vice president for enrollment management and marketing.
“We want to thank the communities of Seattle, Washington, and South Pasadena and San Marino, California, and beyond for the tremendous outpouring of love and support we have received in honor of our daughter, Sarah Pantip Wong,” Wong’s family said in a statement released Monday night.
Tan said Wong had an older brother, a younger brother and a large extended family.
Mouttet said the university is still exploring with Wong’s family members the ways in which she could best be honored in the coming days. Meanwhile, the school is looking to provide support services for students.
Kersha Taitano, who leads a Pacific Islander cultural group on the SPU campus, said Wong was active in the group and recently performed as a dancer in a showcase event that highlights different Pacific Islander cultures. Taitano said Wong was admired in the group as a leader and a person who nurtured others.
“She was really active and really supportive,” Taitano said.
Wong and Tan met in kindergarten and forged a bond that would last 14 years and would see them document visits to Los Angeles cafes on a joint Instagram account, try out for Rose Parade honors together, and spend Fourth of Julys watching fireworks on high school football fields.
Tan said Wong taught her never to be afraid to take risks.
“Anytime I was unsure about something, I’d always text her to ask for her opinion because I knew she’d know exactly what to say,” Tan said.