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Kristina Chesterman, of Livermore, has died of injuries after being struck by a vehicle while riding her bicycle Sept. 22, 2013, in Chico.

CHICO -- Flowers and signs blanketed a footbridge less than a mile from the campus of Chico State University on Wednesday, marking the site where nursing student Kristina Chesterman was struck by a suspected drunken driver while riding her bike home from the campus library.

The 21-year-old from Livermore, who had been studying for an exam before the fatal accident, was declared legally dead in a Chico hospital Tuesday afternoon, but doctors were keeping her on life support to preserve her organs.

Kristina's mother, Sandra Chesterman, is the director of operations at the Livermore Homeless Refuge, a homeless shelter that rotates among four local churches. From an early age, Sandra said, her daughter was determined to help others, dropping everything to take care of family members when they were sick or injured.

"I knew she was destined to be a nurse," Sandra said. "She was always giving and never wanted anything in return. She was so incredible. ... She was my best friend."

Kristina planned to spend the first years of her career as a nurse with Doctors Without Borders in poor and war-torn areas of the world, according to her family.

Described as an "old soul," Kristina preferred spending time with family to partying, and was an organ donor. Doctors told her mother that even in death, Kristina could help as many as 50 people on the donor waiting list.

"She wanted to save lives if she could," Sandra said. "That's just the way she was. She was so giving and loving. ... God needed her too much."

A graduate of Granada High School -- where she was a popular student and cheerleader -- and of Las Positas College, Chesterman was eulogized by more than 100 friends and family at a candlelight vigil in front of the Chesterman family home Tuesday night.

Lake Tahoe resident Morgan Burbach, 21, a classmate of Chesterman's both at Granada and Las Positas, said she was thankful to have spent a few final days with her best friend the previous weekend.

"She was just so loving and caring," Burbach said. "She would jump through hoops for everyone. ... She was always there for her friends or even people she just met. It didn't matter."

Chesterman was part of Granada's medical occupation program and was always quick to share health tips, according to Granada High Principal Philomena Rambo, who added that the bright and energetic student left an impression on everyone she came in contact with.

"She was someone who was well-liked by kids all over the school; she transcended all the defined groups," Rambo said.

The circle of lives Chesterman touched extended to Chico, where Katie Holzer, a fellow nursing student from Brentwood, remembered her as a fun-loving friend and a die-hard New England Patriots fan with dreams of working at Stanford Hospital.

Chico State administrators canceled several classes and were making grief counselors available to students. Carol Houston, director of Chico State's nursing program, called Chesterman an "incredibly bright and talented student" with a promising career ahead of her.

"She always placed other people ahead of her," Houston said. "She was a nurturer. Despite her young age, she was so good at organizing. ... She knew she wanted to be a nurse."

Students held an impromptu vigil outside the school's hospital Monday night, Houston said.

"The nursing program, as well as the university, is really grieving for this remarkable woman," Houston said. "It's a program that's devastated; everyone feels the loss."

According to Chico police, Chesterman was riding her bicycle in a bike lane over the Big Chico Creek bridge Sunday evening when she was struck by an SUV allegedly driven by Riley Hoover, 19. Hoover left the scene and was later arrested on suspicion of felony hit-and-run and driving under the influence, police said. He has since been charged with gross vehicular manslaughter.

Kristina's death is the second tragedy to hit the Chesterman family this year. In February, her brother Daniel, 19, was attacked and beaten severely while visiting Kristina in Chico. He is still recovering from facial injuries.

Daniel's attacker pleaded guilty to a felony assault charge and faces sentencing Nov. 19.

"We thought that would be the end of our nightmare in Chico," Sandra said. "Now we're in the middle of our second nightmare in Chico. ... I just can't believe it."

Doctors will likely remove Chesterman from life support on Thursday, Chesterman said. Memorial services are yet to be planned.

The Chico Enterprise Record contributed to this story. Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.