SAN JOSE -- Rushing to the hospital with Danika Tyler Garcia's parents after learning that the 14-year-old had been in an accident while riding her bike to school, Linda Ruiz hoped that all she would hear was that her granddaughter had suffered a few scrapes.
They rode silently up the elevator from the emergency room with hospital staff leading the way. "We prayed 'Please let it be a broken arm, or a broken leg, something we could deal with,'" she said.
Then the elevator doors opened, and their hearts dropped. They looked at the sign for the surgery ward and knew it was bad.
"Then they were telling us all these awful things, but we were still hopeful," Ruiz said. "But after four or five hours of surgery, when they came out we could tell by their faces that it wasn't good. The surgeon was in tears."
They were led into the intensive care unit, where they watched their beloved Danika, the eccentric of the family with a heart of gold, a shy but sometimes outspoken teen who liked to say she was "adorkable," take her last breath.
"From when she was little and talking, I was so anxious to see who she would be as a grown-up," said Ruiz, the first family member to speak about Danika after the tragic Jan. 17 accident on the tracks next to Del Mar High School. "I knew she was going to be the most interesting person as an adult. Now I'll never get to see that."
The freshman was hit by a VTA train at the intersection of Stokes Street and Southwest Expressway, just off campus. It's now the site of a memorial of flowers and candles, balloons and stuffed animals, all bearing messages of remembrance from more friends than the family knew Danika had.
Kids who gathered for a daylong vigil on Saturday called it a dangerous intersection, and Ruiz said her family is awaiting the official report of what happened that morning. They want to know what went wrong and whether anything can be done to prevent others from going through the nightmare they're living right now.
They do know that Danika was in high spirits. Later that afternoon, she was to sing a song by pop artist Bruno Mars at a student rally -- something she'd been giddily planning after being granted the honor for the school's "Make-A-Wish" event. "She was very shy and (singing at the event) was breaking out for her," said a choir colleague at the Saturday vigil.
But Ruiz said excited as Danika may have been, she doesn't think her granddaughter would do something risky like race the train through the closed traffic gate.
"Unofficially, my brother has heard that a first train went by but another was coming in the other direction, and she probably couldn't see that train and thought it was clear," she said.
Officials with the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, which investigates matters involving VTA trains, said it's too early to make any conclusions.
"I know a bunch of theories have been thrown around, but there's nothing definitive as far as a cause," said sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Kurtis Stenderup. "They are finishing the reconstruction of the accident, and there is video of everything and 40 to 50 potential witnesses on the train. They're going through all that stuff."
Meanwhile, the family is preparing for Sunday funeral services. They expect a large turnout -- Saturday's vigil started at 10:30 a.m. and didn't end until early Sunday, with family members surrounded by "all the little quirky children at the school," Ruiz said.
"She was a brave, strong girl, who talked to kids that no one else talked to because they were different," she said. "She had just gotten her hair dyed teal and cut in an asymmetrical style, she was so thrilled. ... Her mother was a punk rocker, and she was leaning that way."
Danika was a talented illustrator who sketched anime characters with quippy captions on any piece of paper in front of her, Ruiz said. Notes taken in class were often overrun by doodles that sprouted and grew to envelop most of the page.
And she loved to sing -- her classmates in the school choir sang her favorite songs at her memorial and they'll do it again on Sunday at her funeral.
"It's going to be done Danika's way," Ruiz said. "She has a casket that the kids can write all over. The choir is going to sing, and we'll be releasing balloons. We'll have some of her drawings there. It's going to be big -- we have a large family just us alone but oh my gosh, so many people just really liked her as a person. It warms my heart, and her mom's too, to see how well liked she was."
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.
What: Funeral for Danika Garcia, a Del Mar High School freshman killed in a bicycle accident involving a commuter train on Jan. 17.
When: Visitation begins at 2 p.m., with services at 3 p.m. Sunday at Willow Glen Funeral Home, 1039 Lincoln Ave., San Jose. Burial will be at 11 a.m. Monday at Oak Hill Cemetery, 300 Curtner Ave., San Jose.
Donate: The family is accepting donations to help with funeral costs at www.donationto.com/danikagarcia