TAMPA — Brittany Sanchez always had a hole in her heart that never seemed to mend.
She was placed in foster care at birth and adopted at 18 months. As much as her adoptive parents loved her, she couldn't shake the feeling that something was missing in her life.
Last month, a pregnant Sanchez, 21, enrolled in a beauty academy to become a hair stylist. She had found something that she loved doing.
But two weeks before Sanchez was due to give birth to her second child, a car she was riding in crashed into a concrete subdivision sign in Pasco County, killing her unborn baby.
A week later, Sanchez, of New Tampa, also died of her injuries.
On Thursday, students at Artistic Nails & Beauty Academy on Adamo Drive will hold a cut-a-thon. They will donate their earnings to a fund for Brittany's 3-year-old daughter, Alina Guzman.
"It's just so sad and so tragic," said Robert Rosenberg, owner of the beauty academy. "I feel bad for the whole family."
In the short month Sanchez was a student at the academy, she touched their lives, instructor Robin Schiano said.
"I remember her being very enthusiastic about starting school and becoming a hairdresser," Schiano said. "She was very quiet, but I could see it in her eyes."
Sanchez and Alina lived with her parents, Alex and Cathy Sanchez, and her brother, A.J., in New Tampa.
Cathy Sanchez said her daughter loved to cut and color her own hair, and she was good at it.
"She was very bright and very smart," Cathy Sanchez said. "She had her moments like any teenager, but she was a sweet girl."
Brittany dropped out of Wharton High School her junior year. She worked as a receptionist at hair salons near her house. During the month she was at the beauty academy, she got A's on the three written exams.
"She was studying and really into it," Schiano said. "She was so young. This is just so tragic."
On Nov. 8, Brittany was a passenger in a Toyota Avalon being driven by 18-year-old Michael Rosario of Wesley Chapel when the car crashed into the Grand Oaks subdivision sign on State Road 54, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
The accident, which happened at 3:15 a.m., is now a criminal investigation, FHP spokesman Sgt. Larry Kraus said.
Brittany Sanchez's unborn baby died. Brittany was taken to the hospital. Everyone, including her parents, thought she was going to pull through.
She was conscious and talking initially. But on Nov. 16, she succumbed to acute respiratory distress syndrome, a life-threatening lung condition that prevents enough oxygen from getting into the blood, her mom said.
Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813)909-4613 or email@example.com.