Sonia Lopez, 32, apparently didnt see the 3-foot-deep sinkhole that wiped out a large section of Butte Road and didnt slow her car before it fell into the hole around 4 a.m. Saturday, Canyon County sheriffs officials said.
The woman and her vehicle were discovered about an hour later; a short time after that, she was pronounced dead at the scene.
The hole, which has since been filled, was 15 feet wide and 40 feet long. Officials say the road apparently was undermined when gopher holes funneled water under it.
Lopez was on her way to make doughnuts at Dans Ferry Service, a gas station/grocery store in Walters Ferry, when she crashed.
Her family is devastated, older sister Rosa Manzo said Thursday. Sonia was the third of five kids, Manzo said.
I just want people to know she was the happiest, nicest, most understanding person, Manzo said. She loved her nieces and nephews like they were her kids.
I cant even accept that she has passed away. ... I dont know what to say right now, she said. None of us can believe it.
It sounds like she was just the first person to drive on the road after it happened.
A co-worker grew concerned when Sonia didnt answer her phone, went out to look for her and found the crash site, Manzo said. Thats when family members found out what happened.
She only worked here for a few months but in that short time endeared herself to many customers ... she was very friendly and smiley just an all- around good girl, another co-worker, Glenda Eytchison, said. Its just a tragedy. She had a little nephew she was caring for sometimes, and he was just the happiest little boy.
Its a tragic story and a tragic accident, Canyon County sheriffs Chief Criminal Deputy Kieran Donahue said Thursday. Its just a very unusual circumstance, that a gopher hole allowed water to get under the roadway, which ultimately led to the collapse.
It looks like over a period of time, the water eroded (the earth) under the road and softened it up.
Donahue said irrigation from nearby farm fields got into the gopher holes, and Nampa Highway District officials had no indication there was anything wrong with the road before it collapsed sometime late Friday or early Saturday. There was no water in the sinkhole.
Nampa Highway District officials did not return phone calls from the Idaho Statesman on Thursday.
Manzo said she was told that her sister died almost immediately from the crash.
Canyon County coroners officials said Thursday Lopez died from crash-related blunt force trauma to her torso and head.
The airbags in Lopezs car deployed during the crash, but she was not wearing her seat belt, which may have contributed to her fatal injuries, Donahue said. Evidence indicated she was thrown forward by the force of the impact, he said.
When the air bags were deployed, that automatically turned on the cars blinkers, which alerted the next driver along that stretch of road to avoid driving into the hole. That driver, an off-duty law enforcement officer, tried to give first aid to Lopez, but it was too late, Donahue said.
Sheriffs officials said they do not suspect excessive speed was a factor in the crash. Lopez was in the car by herself.
A funeral Mass was held for Lopez Thursday morning.
Patrick Orr: 377-6219, Twitter: @IDS_Orr