Dana Wilson with friend from high school Samantha Johnson. Photo courtesy of Samantha Johnson.

UNC Charlotte is suffering the loss of a freshman student, Dana Wilson, who died Feb. 6 in a wrong-way car accident driving back to Charlotte from her hometown of Wilmington.

Wilson and her boyfriend Ryan Michael Menke were pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the other vehicle was suspected to have been under the influence of alcohol.

“Driving while impaired is a horrible crime and I can’t tell you how many deaths I’ve seen,” UNC Charlotte Chief of Police Jeffrey Baker said. “It’s the kind of crime where when you read or hear about these deaths you say, ‘how many more does their have to be?’”

According to Baker, approximately 1.2 million people are arrested for driving under the influence in America on average each year with the highest percentage of those arrested being 18 to 24-year-olds.

Friend of Wilson and UNCC student Allie Williams asked students to pledge not to drink and drive outside the Student Union Friday.

Williams also had books where students could write their condolences and accepted donations for the parents of both Wilson and Menke.

“Dana Wilson was so full of life. Every time you saw her, she had the biggest smile on her face. She was so bubbly and happy, you couldn’t be mad when you were in her presence at all. She was the biggest sweetheart. She was a close friend of mine and there is no denying that Dana couldn’t light up the room,” Williams said.

Johnson and Menke had just moved into an apartment together and bought a puppy named Charlotte. Charlotte was the only one to survive the crash, according to Wilson’s GoFundMe page which has reached over $25 thousand worth of donations to go toward the memorial service.

Samantha Johnson, who currently attends Laney High School where Wilson graduated from, said she remembers her first time meeting Wilson.

“My friend had invited me to go with her to a small get together with some of her friends. As a freshman, getting invited by a junior to hangout with other juniors- it was kind of a big deal for me … I remember getting there and just sitting on the couch by myself not talking to anyone until Dana sat next to me and started talking to me like we’ve known each other our whole lives,” said Johnson. “She didn’t care how old you were, what your reputation was or who your parents were, she treated you with respect.”

Johnson said her and Wilson would spend time at a Wrightsville Beach hotel parking deck where they’d listen the waves and talked.

“It was our place to destress,” said Johnson. “We cried, we laughed, we laughed so hard we cried. Being at the beach was her happy place.”

Alexandria Sands is the Niner Times' community editor. She is a senior majoring in Communication Studies with a double minor in Journalism and English. Her work has been published in Charlotte magazine, The Charlotte Business Journal, Creative Loafing, The Gaston Gazette, The Shelby Star and The State Port Pilot. When she's not in the newsroom, you can catch her reading a book at her home in Oak Island. Reach her at community@ninertimes.com or @alexsands_.