Students, faculty and staff are grieving the death of St. Thomas junior Ria Patel, who died in a car accident early the morning of Sept. 17. She was the daughter of Bharat and Devyani Patel of Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
Friends and family are still trying to make sense of the accident that took a young woman who brought light to many. In an interview with KARE 11, her uncle, Hitesh Patel, said she was "probably one of the happiest girls ever." Cousin and fellow St. Thomas student Raveena Patel said that she and Ria were "inseparable" and that her cousin was capable of making friends with anyone.
The St. Thomas campus community has echoed that sentiment.
"She always knew how to light up the room wherever she would go," said student Jenny Jirsa. "She brought people together in so many different ways."
"I know her beautiful smile and personality will live in us and she will continue to look down at us and bless us from above," Raveena said.
Aarti (prayers) was held Monday, Sept. 18, with prarthana sabha (prayer service) following at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir.
Ria's death is being investigated by police and charges are expected; an arrest was made on Sept. 19.
A prayer vigil planned by students was held at the Arches on Thursday, Sept. 21, from 8:30-10:00 p.m. The entire University of St. Thomas community was welcome to attend.
A funeral service took place Saturday, Sept. 23, from 1:30-4 p.m. in the Anderson Student Center, James B. Woulfe Alumni Hall. Those who attended were asked to wear white or neutral colors to honor Hindu tradition. The funeral was closed to media so that family and friends may grieve in private.
Members of the St. Thomas community who would like support or assistance in dealing with Ria's death or support for a mental health issue, are encouraged to contact the Center for Ministry at (651) 962-6560 or Counseling and Psychological Services at (651) 962-6780. Public Safety is available to assist anyone in our community 24 hours a day at (651) 962-5100.