PHOENIX, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – Last July, 16-year-old Melanie Sowa nearly lost her life when the car she was in crashed into a dump truck near 51st Avenue and Thunderbird Road.

[VIDEO: Phoenix teen recovering from crash meets with firefighers who saved her life]

Her best friend, 14-year-old Ella Thomas, was killed. Three other teenagers inside the car were hurt.

[RELATED: Phoenix police ID 14-year-old girl killed in crash involving car, garbage truck]

Now out of the hospital, Melanie had a surprise reunion with some of the first responders who worked to save her.

It was a reunion that should have never happened, firefighters said, judging by how mangled the car was after its teen driver ran a red light and crashed into the back of a dump truck. Now three months later, Melanie is still coping with the loss of her friend.

“It still hasn’t fully hit me, yet. I still can’t believe that my best friend is gone. We spent years together and just, mentally, I don’t believe that she’s not here,” Melanie said.

Every step in her recovery has been tough-- she has lost the hearing in one ear and the vision in her right eye. However, with the help of doctors and nurses at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center, she is now able to walk on her own again.

Melanie says her parents and younger sister aren’t focusing on their losses as much as trying to help other families of teens not make the same mistake as Melanie did that fateful morning.

“Never get in the car with multiple teenagers,” Melanie said.

Her mother, Dahiana Sowa, agrees.

“Distractions, the phone, the apps, the pictures-- there’s so many distractions. When you go into a car, you’re in the hands of whoever is behind the wheel-- that’s it,” Dahiana said.


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