Sophomore died in car accident during spring break


Submitted photo.

Dawn Einsel

Some knew her as Rachael. Most people called her Carli. But to her father, Rachael Carlina Woodruff was just his energetic 19-year-old girl and his best friend.

“To me, it was just her,” Donald Woodruff said. “It was my daughter either way.”

On March 22, Rachael was headed home to Loveland, Ohio, to see friends and family for spring break. Around 2:30 p.m. she stopped at a rest area off of Interstate 71 in Delaware County. As she was leaving, Joshua Morris, 32, of Streetsboro, became distracted by his cell phone and lost control of his vehicle. He crossed the median, all three lanes of southbound traffic and the rest area exit ramp before striking Rachael’s car. She was taken by EMS to Grant Hospital where she died from her injuries.

Friends and family gathered Monday in her hometown for funeral services. Those closest to her remember her for her sense of humor, her ability to connect with others and her spirit.

Caitlin Parker, junior history and pre-law major, and Katie Thomas, junior speech pathology major, heard the news together. Both met Rachael at the beginning of the fall semester through mutual friends.

“It was something that we didn’t realize could be real,” Parker said. “She was just such a vivacious, fun-loving girl, and this would be the last person that something like this could ever happen to.”

Chelsey Ellis, junior nursing major, met Rachael two years ago when she was a sophomore and Rachael was a freshman. They became roommates this summer.

“The most important thing that I want people to know is just that she always made people feel comfortable and welcome,” Ellis said. “She would go to a party with a few friends and leave with 20.”

Her father said that Rachael came to Kent State looking for a big school without being in a big city. She was a sophomore intervention specialist major and was recently hired at Hattie Larlham, which provides services for the developmentally disabled. She was scheduled to start next week.

Donald Woodruff said that it was her big heart and love for people that made her perfect for her field.

“I think that she understood that beauty is really something that comes from the inside,” he said.

Rachael was also very athletic and a little competitive, involved in many sports throughout the years. Her father recalled her placing fifth in state for diving at a very young age. She also went to the Junior Olympics twice for track and played soccer in high school. But he said that when she came to Kent she wanted to focus on her studies.

He said that what Rachael really enjoyed was the camaraderie that came along with being a part of a group. Pallbearers at her funeral were mostly former teammates.

“She was the one that kept people laughing and she had that really contagious personality that made you want to get to know her more,” Parker said. “She just really let you in.”

The driver of the vehicle that struck Rachael was not injured and no charges have been filed as the accident remains under investigation.

Since the incident, many friends have vowed to never use their cell phones while driving again and are telling Rachael’s story to others to inspire them to do the same.

“There’s just nothing that important that it can’t wait a few minutes,” Parker said.

“People don’t realize that a little distraction can have big consequences,” added Thomas.

Even though she is gone, her smile remains in the memories of those who knew her. It will be a reminder to stay positive, just as Rachael always was.

“It’s OK to be sad for now, but she would want us to be happy,” Ellis said. “We should just live the way she lived and treat people the way she treated people.”

Contact Dawn Einsel at [email protected].