Aditi Avhad hadn't seen her parents in a year when they arrived at O'Hare International Airport from India Thursday.
They piled into a bus for the trip back to the University of Missouri in Columbia, where Avhad was a grad student at the medical school. They were sitting in the upper deck behind the driver when it skidded out of control and hit the central pillar of an overpass on Interstate 55 south of Springfield.
Avhad was trapped in the wreckage and pronounced dead at the scene. Her parents were injured, a friend said.
"She was a very darling person,” said her friend and roommate at the school, Shraddha Sankhe. “I’m going to miss her so much."
Sankhe said she learned of the crash through an email from a friend who asked if she had heard about it. She hadn't and checked news reports online. "Aditi Avhad" was all over the Internet.
"It seemed real when I read it," Sankhe said.
She called Piyush Khopkar, a mutual friend, and he said Avhad was taking the Megabus back to school. Sankhe told him what happened. “What the hell are you telling me?” he said. “This can’t be true.”
Avhad had worked as a dentist for a year in Mumbai, India before she was accepted into the University of Missouri’s health administration graduate program in the fall of 2011, according to university officials. She worked at the school's Center for Health Care Quality.
She had been awarded a scholarship through the school's Health Administration Department and maintained a 4.0 grade point average, the university said in a statement. She was on track to complete her master’s degree in 2013.
“She was a stellar student who made great contributions to the knowledge-building mission of the university," University of Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton said in a statement. “All of our hearts are a little heavier today as we grieve this loss. We extend our heartfelt condolences to her parents.”
Sankhe, also from Mumbai, said Avhad was extremely hard-working and spoke four languages: English, Spanish, Hindi and Marathi. “She was an inspiration to us all."
But Avhad also liked to watch Bollywood movies. “She was a bad singer . . . but she laughed at herself,” Sankhe said.
Sometimes, after Sankhe and Avhad finished important tests, they would go to Shakespearean plays to celebrate.
Khopkar, 24, said Avhad made friends easily, and he took many trips and attended festivals with Avhad.
"When we came here, we didn’t know each other, but now I can say she was one of the closest friends," Khopkar said.
“All of her friends at Mizzou are keeping her in our thoughts and praying that wherever she is, she always be smiling and happy the way she was,” said another friend, Surabhi Grover, 27.
The Cultural Association of India was planning a memorial service Friday night at the school.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun