Sorority, campus come together to mourn student deaths

UNM students wreck

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A sorority, and a campus, is heartbroken after two students were killed in a hit-and-run crash. Two more University of New Mexico students are still fighting for their lives. Meanwhile, two people are in jail accused of running from that wreck and fighting police.

It was a day these students could have never imagined, having to say one final goodbye to someone so young.

“You could tell that she was like a big sister to many of them,” Dean of Students Tomás Aguire said.

They are saying goodbye to Briana Hillard, a UNM nursing student and Pi Beta Phi sister.

“It’s just a tragedy, it really is,” Aguire said. “It breaks your heart.”

The car Hillard and three other students were riding in last night is now a pile of twisted metal.

Police say 21-year-old Joshua Leal was behind the wheel of a stolen pickup speeding up Rio Grande when he hit and flipped the car those students were in just outside Hotel Albuquerque.

Joshua Leal
Joshua Leal

“We have two young people deceased on scene, we have two young people clinging to life today in the hospital and we have two cowardly criminals who fled that scene after hitting their car,” Officer Simon Drobik with Albuquerque Police said.

One of those students badly injured, and now in critical condition, is also a Pi Beta Phi.

Throughout the day Saturday, people were coming by the house to show their support.

Hillard, a senior, is being remembered as a friend to everybody and somebody who was always smiling.

“She was obviously a very special person and they’re all very close to each other,” Aguire said.

Police say Leal and his 16-year-old passenger tried to hide from police after the crash.

“After a couple hours searching using our canine team, we were able to apprehend those two males,” Drobik said.

Leal’s got a lengthy record, including another hit-and-run and careless driving. He will be adding to that now.

“The truck was stolen and there was a stolen firearm inside of that truck,” Drobik added.

While the investigation continues, students are doing their best to stay strong.

“I think it just demonstrates how tight and how close the Lobo community is,” Aguire said.

KRQE News 13 has not learned the name of the other student killed in the crash or the names of the other two students still in the hospital.

A grief counselor has been at the Pi Beta Phi house for those struggling with the news.

Leal is looking at a long list of charges including vehicular homicide and child abuse. He’s scheduled to make his first appearance in court Sunday. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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