MU student who was killed in motorcycle accident 'always was smiling'

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 | 1:22 p.m. CDT; updated 3:56 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 12, 2010

COLUMBIA — An MU student was killed in a motorcycle accident at East Nifong Boulevard and State Farm Parkway on Monday morning.

Caitlin Valora, 20, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, according to a release from the Columbia Police Department.

Valora was a passenger on the motorcycle, and the driver was identified as Aaron Hansberry, 21. He was taken to University Hospital for treatment of a broken right leg, the release said. No other vehicles were involved in the accident.

A University Hospital spokeswoman said Hansberry was in fair condition as of 3:30  p.m. Tuesday.

The accident occurred at about 11 a.m. According to police, Hansberry and Valora were riding westbound on East Nifong Boulevard toward State Farm Parkway. The two roads meet in a T-intersection.

The motorcycle continued across State Farm Parkway. The front tire hit the curb, and the motorcycle became airborne. It came to rest about 20 feet from the road.

Police found a helmet at the scene of the accident, which they believe Hansberry was wearing at the time of the crash, the release said. Investigators believe he took off the helmet to call police. They did not find another helmet at the scene.

Missouri law states that motorcycle drivers and passengers must wear protective headgear at all times the vehicle is in motion.

MU's online directory lists Hansberry as a junior pre-communication student.

Valora was a sociology student, her friend Elizabeth Nonnemaker said. Valora would have been a junior this fall. She said Hansberry and Valora were friends.

Nonnemaker, also a junior, said she met Valora her freshman year in 2008..

"We were random suitemates in South Hall, and we just became really good friends," Nonnemaker said.

The two chose to room together again for their sophomore year.

"She always was smiling and a go-getter," Nonnemaker said. "If we were ever sad, we would go shopping or do something fun like that."

Caitlin Miller, also a junior, lived in the same South Hall suite with Valora and Nonnemaker. Miller planned to room with Valora during the upcoming school year.

"She was one of those people that, immediately, everybody loved," Miller said. "She was really personable, really kind. She had more friends than I could ever imagine having."

Steve Winters, a senior at MU, said he became good friends with Valora after meeting her about four years ago.

"I'll always remember laughing with her," Winters said. "We always made fun of each other jokingly."

Winters said he took care of Valora's plant, which she had named Edward, while she traveled this summer to places such as New York, Kansas City and New Orleans.

Winters recalled speaking with Valora on the phone and updating her on Edward's growth from a 3-inch "weed" to a flowering 3-foot plant with "two daisies and counting."

Authorities said Hansberry's driver's license lists his home address as Lee's Summit. The 2009-10 MU Directory lists Valora as a resident of Wildwood.

Police said a crash reconstructionist will complete a report on the accident. The Boone County Medical Examiner's office said an autopsy had been performed, but no results have been released.

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