Raleigh woman killed in I-85 wreck called inspirational
Posted December 28, 2011
Updated December 29, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — Friends say a Raleigh woman killed in a wreck on Interstate 85 near Greensboro on Tuesday lived to improve other people's lives.
Emerald Padilla, 24, lost control of her 2006 Infiniti on the rain-slicked highway, and the car ran off the side of the road, hit an overhead sign post and burst into flames, authorities said.
A state Highway Patrol trooper, who happened to be about 100 yards away at a gas station off the Groomtowne Road exit of southbound I-85, tried to pull Padilla from the car, but the flames were too hot.
Friends said Wednesday that Padilla was bright and bubbly but had no tolerance for social injustice. She worked for the AmeriCorps service program for two years after graduating from Campbell University, which led to her work for the Interfaith Food Shuttle in Raleigh.
"Emerald had the most energy of anyone I know. I mean, she was, like, full of energy and just vibrant," said Will Hall, a training chef with the Interfaith Food Shuttle, where Padilla helped teach low-income families how to cook nutritionally.
"I know people die every day. You just wouldn't think it was her," he said. "She's so young (and had) so much going for her. She seemed really focused and driven. It was the last thing you want to hear."
Hall and co-worker Kia Baker said Padilla didn't spend much time at her desk in the nonprofit's office, choosing instead to be out in the community meeting one-on-one with parents and children.
"She was a very inspirational teacher – very motivational – with a spirit that just lit up the room," said Baker, director of food distribution for the organization. "She was a young lady with so much promise, so much leadership potential, so much to offer this community."
"She told me it made her feel good, and that would be her legacy, her lasting legacy. To have been in service -- those were her words," her mother, Maryann Padilla said.
Emerald Padilla, who was planning to pursue a master's degree in social work, will be remembered in a service at 1 p.m. Friday at Baptist Grove Church on Leesville Road.