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Teen was a ‘free spirit’ who loved live music

Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal

Seventeen-year-old Maya Spencer never missed a show.

Maya Spencer, 17, who died Saturday after falling on a hike in the Sandias, was described as an outgoing young woman with "a huge heart. (Courtesy of Spencer family)

Maya Spencer, 17, who died Saturday after falling on a hike in the Sandias, was described as an outgoing young woman with “a huge heart. (Courtesy of Spencer family)

She was a regular in Albuquerque’s under-21 live music scene and, on Saturday night, when she didn’t show up at a performance in Belen, her friend Josh Little knew something was wrong.

Later, he learned an accident had taken her life.

Spencer slipped off a trail and fell to her death while hiking the Spur Trail near Sandia Crest with three friends Saturday morning. She was looking for a better view and slipped on the snow and ice that still blankets the top of the mountain, police said.

“It’s just shocking, she’s so young,” Little said. “I know tragedies happen, but it never really hits that close to home.”

At least a dozen rescuers worked for hours Saturday morning, hoisting Spencer’s body from a deep ravine.

“I was on the scene when they were bringing her up at the very top, and they were pretty well spent,” Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Aaron Williamson said. “There was a lot of mountaineering involved. It was still snowy and icy.”

It was an accident, Williamson said.

“From everything I have heard, she got too close to the edge and lost her balance,” said Sierra Graves, 18, one of Spencer’s high school friends.

Spencer went to La Cueva High School and had completed half of her junior year when she decided to work toward a GED instead, said her dad, Alan Spencer, a science teacher at La Cueva. She wanted to attend a local college when she was done.

“Maya was a free spirit. She just really loved everybody,” Alan Spencer said.

He lost his leg last year in a motorcycle accident. “Maya was just always there to help me and support me and take care of me,” he said. “She was just wonderful.”

Maya Spencer fell to her death is still covered with ice and snow in places. Spencer slipped while hiking Saturday afternoon. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Maya Spencer fell to her death is still covered with ice and snow in places. Spencer slipped while hiking Saturday afternoon. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

He said the family, which includes Maya’s 14-year-old sister, was notified Saturday. The last time he saw her was when he was “being goofy” waking her up that morning.

“I don’t know that we’re coping. We’re spending time talking about the good times. We’re holding each other and crying a lot,” Alan Spencer said Sunday.

Today’s student testing for juniors was postponed, and grief counselors have been made available to students and staff, said Principal Dana Richardson-Lee in an email to students’ parents. Juniors were still expected to show up to class.

“We have experienced a tragic loss,” Richardson-Lee wrote.

Condolences and thoughts for Spencer’s family have flooded social media since her death. Little is planning a benefit concert in her honor and a fund was set up online to help the family pay for her funeral.

Alan Spencer wrote on his Facebook page that the family will donate any extra money to a “Maya appropriate charity.”

Miranda Gutierrez spent months of driver’s ed classes with Spencer and, by the end, her notebook was chock full of drawings and notes they passed to and from each other.

“She was really unique. She didn’t care about what anyone thought about her, she was always doing her own thing,” Gutierrez said. “When you’re with someone in a car for that long, you create a bond.”

Graves has been wearing one of Spencer’s favorite necklaces ever since she heard about the accident Saturday night.

“She was extremely outgoing, she was loud, she always made everybody laugh, she had a huge heart,” Graves said.

One of Maya’s favorite places to hang out was Amped Performance Space in Downtown, an all-ages music venue. She offered to help owner Dawn Malone – whom she called “Amped Mama” – with anything from collecting tickets at the door to cleaning up after shows to baking cookies for visiting bands.

“The world lost a kind person who really meant to change the world in her own way,” Malone said. “My world is definitely dimmer without her. You just never imagine it’s going to happen to someone so wonderful.”

Gutierrez said she is devastated.

“I would just want to see her one more time,” she said. “It makes me feel like I never got to say goodbye.”

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