College Dance Team Central

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hundreds Mourn Rebel Girl Killed In I-215 Crash

Lindsay Bennett died two days after a collision with a suspected drunken driver

By Jean Reid Norman
Las Vegas Sun

More than 500 friends and family members of Lindsay Bennett filled an amphitheater outside the UNLV student union Tuesday evening to remember the 18-year-old student who died Friday, two days after being hit in what police are calling a drunken driving crash on Interstate 215 at Windmill Avenue.

“I am in awe,” said her father, Mike Bennett, as he looked across the crowd.

“It’s incredible to know that Lindsay affected so many people,” said Talia Rothman, a Coronado High School senior who was on the school’s dance team with Lindsay Bennett. The team was selling T-shirts with Bennett’s photo and motto, “Follow Your Bliss” to raise money for a scholarship fund set up in her name.

Bennett was a freshman at UNLV majoring in architecture and a member of the Rebel Girls dance team. She graduated from Coronado last year and had been captain of the high school’s dance team her junior and senior years.

She would have turned 19 years old Monday.

Vladimir Lagerev, 45, has been charged in connection with her death. He was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on charges of death from DUI alcohol, involuntary manslaughter and no proof of insurance, according to detention center records.

The 1 ¼-hour memorial service included candlelight, a slideshow of photos of Bennett’s life, music and comments from UNLV Athletic Director Mike Hamrick, Rebel Girls coach Marca DeCastroverde, Bennett’s pastor and friends.

DeCastroverde called Bennett “everything I want my daughter to be like,” and fellow Rebel Girl Kristen Johnson was interrupted by her own tears as she sang “Held” by Natalie Grant.

Family friend Jo Velasquez, a clinical psychologist, described her visit to the hospital last week while Bennett was fighting for her life.

“I walk in and look at a dad’s face, and there’s a thousand pounds of stress. A momma looks washed over,” Velasquez said.

“This is the horror of every parent,” she said. “Every time you young people walk out of our house, we pray that you will come back safely, and this is why.”

Velasquez praised the family’s strength and generosity in the two days between the crash and Bennett’s death. They allowed scores of her friends in to visit, and then donated her organs.

“How many of us would have been so gracious to share the last hours and days with our child with so many people?” Velasquez said. “They were thinking in their darkest hour how they can help others.”

Velasquez challenged the crowd of largely young people to act in some way to honor Bennett’s death. She said when Bennett’s young friends think about going out for a night on the town, they should think about Bennett.

“Would you be willing to be a true and loyal friend to Lindsay and make sure you have a designated driver or not touch liquor?” she asked. “That would be your miracle.”

Jason Carter, who graduated from Coronado High School with Bennett last year, said Velasquez’s words hit home.

“This brought people together,” he said. “It changed people’s hearts.”

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