The woman killed on Interstate 95 was a designated driver who 'loved life'

Posted at 10:23 AM, Oct 31, 2022

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A 26-year-old Montpelier woman was killed in a seven-vehicle crash on Interstate 95 in Henrico County, according to Virginia State Police.

Claire Elizabeth Wenzel died instantly, according to investigators.

"She was a friend to everyone. She loved life and found joy in everything she did," Wenzel's mother Donna Wenzel shared. "She was kind and compassionate. She would go out of her way to help others. She was the designated driver because she doesn't drink. Now she's the one who died."

Wenzel grew up in Hanover and attended Liberty Middle School and Patrick Henry High School. She recently worked at Cooper's Hawk Winery and at Applebee's, according to her mother.

She was preceded in death by her father and brother.

Clair Elizabeth Wenzel.jpg
Clair Elizabeth Wenzel

"She believed all the bad things that happened to her were because God had a higher purpose," Donna Wenzel said. "She loved talking to and being with people. She never knew a stranger. She lived life to the fullest."

One of 11 kids, Wenzel said Claire would've wanted to be with her family right now.

"We've just lost a really significant part of our lives. A piece of our hearts and souls are ripped out. She should be here with all of us. Instead, we're having to plan a funeral and the way she died was so tragic," Wenzel said.

The investigation into the crash remained ongoing Monday, but Virginia State Police have released the findings of its preliminary investigation.

The crash was reported in the northbound lanes at about 2:51 a.m. on Sunday, October 30, near the Parham Road exit (mile marker 84).

"The first crash occurred when a 2013 Jeep Wrangler ran off the road northbound and hit the guardrail, spinning back into the travel lane," a Virginia State Police spokesperson wrote in an email. "A secondary, fender bender-style crash, then occurred when a 2019 Toyota Camry and a 2021 Kia Forte slowed to avoid the Jeep and rear-end one another."

Police said the drivers of the Jeep, Kia, and Toyota got out of their vehicles after the crash and stood in the roadway. 

Multi-Vehicle Fatality Crash in Henrico 01.jpg
Virginia State Police are investigating a multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 95 in Henrico County, Va.

"At this time a third crash occurred when a 2010 Ford Focus hits the Jeep and the Kia Forte in an attempt to avoid the collision," police continued. "A fourth crash then occurred when a 2009 Honda Accord trying to avoid the scene strikes the Focus in a T-bone style crash, sending the Hyundai Elantra into the rear of the Jeep, striking [Wenzel] the driver of the Elantra."

A fifth final crash occurred when a Mazda CX5 could not stop in time and hit the Honda Accord, police said.

"A total of seven vehicles were involved in this crash, seven people were transported to the hospital with varying degrees of injury," police said. "This crash remains under investigation with the assistance of the Virginia State Police Richmond Division Crash Reconstruction Team."

"She's not a statistic, she's loved by so many people," Wenzel said.

Wenzel said that Claire's community is large and devastated because a bubble, kind young woman was taken too soon.

"But really just want prayers. That's the only important thing, just prayers. I just want people to realize that in an instant, your whole life can be completely over and in such a horrible, tragic way and leave a wake of devastation in its path. I don't want that to happen to anyone else."

Claire's family has set up a GoFundMe to help with funeral expenses. Click hereto donate.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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