Brett Thomas Jones was remembered by family, friends and colleagues as someone who rarely passed a friend without giving a hug.
Hundreds of people gathered Friday evening for a candlelight vigil in Glenbrook Park on La Riviera Drive, not far from California State University, Sacramento, where Jones, 25, was a student.
Jones, a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, was killed early Thursday when the car in which he was riding crashed into the back of a big rig.
The collision on a Highway 50 onramp resulted in the arrest of the driver in the death of Jones, her passenger.
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The California Highway Patrol said Alexandra Jimenez, 22, of Sacramento was arrested on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in the crash that occurred around 1:45 a.m. Thursday.
A CHP news release said that a big rig was in the onramp lane from Howe Avenue northbound to westbound Highway 50, accelerating at about 25 mph. A Toyota Scion driven by Jimenez was traveling westbound on Highway 50 at a speed that has not yet been determined by the CHP.
Also still under investigation is why Jimenez traveled into the onramp lane where her car collided into the rear of the big-rig trailer, according to the CHP. The crash caused major damage to the car, including intrusion into the driver and front passenger area, where Jones was seated.
Jones, who was not wearing his seat belt, suffered fatal injuries. Jimenez suffered minor injuries.
After the initial collision, the Scion ended up on the highway, where it was hit from behind by a Toyota Corolla traveling about 65 mph. The Corolla driver and the big-rig driver were not injured.
During the Friday evening vigil, friends signed books, recording their experiences with Jones. Vigil organizers said the books would be given to his family.
Jones was remembered as a happy man who exuded energy.
A GoFundMe account has been set up for the Jones family to defray funeral costs and to help with the transportation of a brother who is serving overseas in the Army. Jones was a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
“Many family and friends came to the house today and totally overwhelmed us with all of the love and support that has already been shown and donated in Brett’s memory,” reads the introductory message on the GoFundMe page. “It is testament to the incredible person he was and how very loved he continues to be. Thank you on behalf of Brett’s family.”
As of Friday night, $12,408 toward the $15,000 sought by the family had been pledged. Postings also spoke of Jones’ service to country and his friendship.
One woman, who only met him once, said he helped her at a midtown nightclub where he worked security. The bar patron, who is pregnant, said he disarmed a disruptive man:
“There was a man sitting behind us at the show who was growling loudly at everyone and I saw him pull out a long-bladed knife. Brett was standing nearby so I discreetly told him what I saw and then hurried to the bathroom to get my baby bump out of harm’s way.”
When she emerged from the restroom she learned that Jones had successfully confiscated the knife.
“I was so relieved – and so eternally grateful for Brett’s bravery. He will always be a hero to our family. We are so sorry to hear of his tragic death.”