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New Ph.D. Loreto Godoy dies of crash injuries

By Dave Jones on June 26, 2013 in University News


New Ph.D. Loreto A. Godoy, 32, has died from the injuries she suffered in a car crash last Friday, and will be an organ donor, her family members confirmed today (June 26).

Her husband, Fernando O. Mardones, 36, also lost his parents in the crash. He was in the car, too, along with his and Godoy’s two children. Mardones and the children, Agustina, 4, and Rafaela, 8 months, suffered various broken bones and are all home now in Davis.

It happened at about 4:30 p.m. on Interstate 5 near Santa Nella, about 115 miles south of Sacramento, when a northbound car crossed the median and crashed head-on into their car, according to the California Highway Patrol. The other driver also died.

The Mardones-Godoy family was en route to Southern California for a vacation, eight days after the June 13 Graduate Studies commencement, where Godoy received a Ph.D. in conservation ecology, and Mardones a Ph.D. in epidemiology and infectious disease in animals.

Mardones’ parents, Fernando Mardones, 62, and Maria Loreto Loyola, 61, were visiting from Chile.

Mardones expressed his deep appreciation for the UC Davis community’s well wishes and support — but asked for privacy at this time.

As of 6:30 p.m. today, an online aid fund had taken in more than $100,000 to help the family with medical costs and other expenses.

Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi expressed the campus’s condolences. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Godoy and Mardones families, for those who have died, and for Fernando and his children who have lost their wife and mother, and parents and grandparents,” she said.

“Loreto was a bright star in our graduate program and, by all accounts, a fantastic mother.”

Godoy and Mardones each earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine in their native Chile, then, at UC Davis, earned master’s degrees in preventive veterinary medicine (Mardones in 2007 and Godoy in 2009).

As a member of the Ecology Graduate Group, Godoy was officially affiliated with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, but she did her doctoral work in the School of Veterinary Medicine, where people described her as a “ray of sunshine” and an accomplished researcher in the areas of conservation medicine, epidemiology and wildlife population health.

She studied California sea otters in her master’s program, then switched to hummingbird health, working with Holly Ernest, associate professor in residence. Godoy’s research helped to identify the cause and provide the first definitive laboratory diagnosis of avian pox disease in the tiny birds.

“They are so little, but we can learn so much from hummingbirds as indicators of landscape, climate and environmental change based on the way they eat, where they travel and their sensitivity to pesticides,” Godoy is quoted as saying in a story on the School of Veterinary Medicine’s website.

Michael Lairmore, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine, described Godoy as “a talented, compassionate student and a loving mother.”

“Our entire veterinary family mourns her passing, along with Fernando and their family,” he said. “We will remember her as a scientist, friend and colleague who brought energy and enthusiasm to her work and joy to those who knew her.”

Earlier coverage

“Tragedy strikes new Ph.D.s and family,” Dateline UC Davis (June 25, 2013)

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Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,