Fashion student

Ever since she could say “stiletto,” Maria Elena Villalobos had wanted to be a fashion designer. The precocious 18-year-old even had a name already for her future line of denim jeans. It was going to be called Diamond Rec. Her style was modern.

This summer, she had taken a big step toward realizing her dream, enrolling in classes at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, family members said. Every Wednesday and Friday she would travel by train from her family’s Moorpark home to the school’s campus in downtown L.A.

“She was always laughing, smiling,” said a tearful Veronica Gonzalez, her aunt. “She loved kids.”

Gonzalez and other family members spent a horrific night Friday, frantically trying to find Villalobos at area hospitals. Reports of two unidentified victims at County-USC hospital on Saturday sent them racing there. By late afternoon, Villalobos had been confirmed as one of the 25 who died in the train collision.


The middle sibling, Villalobos had a brother and a sister. Born in East L.A., she grew up in Moorpark.

“She had such big plans,” Gonzalez said.

-- Joel Rubin