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Funeral Set for Student Who Died in Waterfront Accident

May 31, 2005 – Funeral services are set for June 6 for 17-year-old Rhondi Rivas, who died early Monday morning when the sports coupe she was driving plunged into Charlotte Amalie harbor.
The 10:30 a.m. funeral service Monday at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral will be preceded by a three-hour viewing Saturday afternoon at the John Thomas Funeral Chapel, school officials said.
Police continued on Tuesday to investigate the accident, in which speed was reportedly a factor. Rivas, a 17-year-old senior and cheerleading captain at All Saints Cathedral School died in the pre-dawn hours Monday after rescue and police divers were unsuccessful in freeing her from her vehicle, which quickly sank after slamming into the waterfront curb and clipping a metal cleat on its way into the harbor. An occupant in the vehicle, Rivas' best friend, Rachel McCoy, escaped the sinking vehicle with minor injuries.
Police said Monday that Rivas' Acura sports coupe was traveling at high speed when another vehicle turned right into the USO intersection. Deputy Police Chief Elvin Fahie said that in an apparent move to avoid hitting the turning vehicle, Rivas veered her car to the right, crossed over the west-bound lanes on Veterans Drive, struck the curb and apparently lost control of the vehicle, which continued across the bulkhead until it careened into the harbor. Reports Monday said that McCoy attempted to free Rivas' seatbelt but was unable to. Rivas was trapped inside the submerged vehicle and presumably drowned.
At All Saints Cathedral School on Tuesday, makeshift memorials were set up outside classroom 401. Many of the remembrances were in the form of prayers and poems. An assembly led by the Rev. Ashton Brooks and Principal Louise Brady was held with faculty, staff and students in grades seven through 12. Many fond memories of Rhondi were shared, according to one student who asked not to be identified.
McCoy was also at school Tuesday for a short time.
The accident comes less than a month before high school graduation June 17 and days before final examinations for the second semester were scheduled.
Sessions with counselors were arranged for students and faculty after the Tuesday morning assembly.
All over the island Tuesday, people were talking about the tragedy and trying to find ways to cope with it.
Shock and sadness mixed with concern for her family, especially her father, Ron Rivas.
"I cried all day every time I thought about her, and I didn't even know the girl," one woman said.
Others, who did know Rhondi Rivas, recalled how lovely she was. Many had children who knew her.
A candlelight vigil had been hastily organized for Tuesday evening on the St. Thomas waterfront in the area where the vehicle went into the water.

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