CORCORAN — Despite previous reports of her death, a hospital official Tuesday confirmed that a popular basketball coach at Corcoran High School who was injured in a rollover crash is still alive but remains in critical condition.
Crystal Ireta, 24, was a passenger in a single-vehicle accident that critically injured her after the car driven by her friend overturned while traveling on Highway 43 just south of Nevada Avenue on Feb. 17, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The driver, Sabrina Gonzales, 25, of Hanford, was arrested for felony DUI with injury.
Ireta wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was transported to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, the CHP said. A spokeswoman for the hospital said Tuesday that she remained in critical condition. She declined to elaborate.
School officials confirmed Tuesday that the freshman girls coach remains on life support.
Rumor, speculation and conflicting information has swirled around Ireta’s condition following an announcement that she had died during last Wednesday’s girls basketball playoff opener in Corcoran. At the game, players and audience members alike took part in a moment of silence and a candlelight vigil to honor her memory.
Ireta, a Corcoran High graduate, was a member of its Central Section championship team in 2005 and was the coach of the school’s freshman girls basketball team.
The mistaken announcement was based on the information the school had received at that time, said Principal Chuck Gent. Gent said the school has since been told that Ireta is still alive.
“We were informed that she was going to be taken off life support, and that she basically had passed away,” he said. “Apparently, there’s been some other information the family was looking at, and they decided at that time not to take her off life support. So she remains on life support at the hospital.”
The school has been offering grief counseling to students and staff.
An attempt to reach Ireta’s family was unsuccessful.
The last 11 days have been an emotional roller coaster for those who knew Ireta, and there are many, said Corcoran High girls head basketball coach Doug White.
“It’s been difficult ever since they told me about the accident,” he said. “She has a lot of friends. She is a very, very, very nice person. Everybody who knows her loves her.”
White said he received the news during the staff meeting last Wednesday that she had died. Then, on Monday night, he received the news that Ireta remains in critical condition at the hospital.
“I’m just as confused as everyone else as to what happened,” White said.
Meanwhile, community support is pouring in for Ireta and her family.
Her friends are getting the word out about a fundraiser softball tournament to honor Ireta through Facebook. The co-ed tournament will take place on Saturday and Sunday at the Corcoran Family YMCA. The cost will be $125 per team, and all the proceeds will go to the family to help with expenses, according to the Facebook posts.
On Tuesday, a blood drive will be held in honor of Ireta at the Corcoran High School Gymnasium, 1100 Letts Ave. People must be at least 17 or 16 with written parental consent to donate blood. They also must be in good health and weigh at least 110 pounds.
The reporter may be reached at 583-2429 or at eyamashita@HanfordSentinel.com.