Community digs deep to help Crystal Morales

COSTA MESA — Classmates of a Newport Harbor High School teen hit by an SUV outside the school two weeks ago are raising money to help her family pay for her medical expenses as she recovers in intensive care.

"Our goal is to raise as much money as possible to help the family's medical bills," said Alexandra Holbrook, 17, a Harbor senior. "She's just a really nice girl, someone you can't imagine this happening to."

Alexandra and her classmates were collecting donations in front of the Ralphs on 17th Street, a few blocks from where 17-year-old Crystal Morales was hit Dec. 6 while crossing Irvine Avenue toward Margaret Drive.

"She's got a good support group," said Cathy Armstrong, who donated to the cause Monday and lives across the street from Harbor. "It's so sad, tragic."

Police said Marnie Lippincott, 38, of Costa Mesa hit Morales; Lippincott was on her way to pick up one of her own children.

Lippincott is charged with felony driving under the influence with a sentencing enhancement for causing brain injury. She was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of the crash, according to prosecutors.

Morales is tiny, maybe 100 pounds, classmates said Monday.

When she was hit, she sustained serious head and internal injuries, and was taken to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana. Doctors there placed her in a medically induced coma.

She remains in critical condition but is showing signs of improvement, said classmate Jennifer Kremer, 18. Morales can give a thumbs-up and her personality is shining through in how she responds.

"Crystal is still here," Kremer said.

The public's reaction Monday was encouraging to Morales' supporters. Some gave a couple dollars. One man handed over $40. Someone else wrote a check for $100 and a classmate gave them a check for $200 from their parents.

"As soon as people hear 'drunk driver,' they stop and ask how they can help," Alexandra said.

The girls created the Help Crystal Foundation and will be outside of the Bear Flag Fish Co. restaurant in Newport Beach from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, and the Ralphs in Westcliff Plaza from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Donations can also be directed to the Crystal Morales account No. 0451825769 at Bank of America.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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