Laura Botkin, the young soprano opera singer known for her smile and her impact on the Houston music scene, died in a car crash on Sunday.
While returning from a trip to the Grand Canyon, Botkin was riding in a car that was hit head-on by a pickup truck traveling the wrong way along a West Texas road. Police report that Botkin, who rode without a seat belt in the back seat, was ejected from the vehicle. The driver of the car, 26-year-old Jonathan Runnels, was taken to the hospital in critical condition, as was the driver of the pickup.
With lighting artist Jeremy Choate the fatal victim of a hit-and-run crash on Saturday night, this marks two crushing losses for the Houston arts community in auto accidents in a matter of days.
"Laura, 27, was beautiful and talented. She taught many kids voice. This is a huge loss. You're never prepared for loss."
Botkin, a 27-year-old, made Houston home after receiving her Masters of Music in Vocal Performance in May 2008 under Stephen King at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music.
She sang on staff at Christ Church Cathedral and gave private music lessons in addition to her position as a voice coach at HITS Theatre in the Heights. There, she taught young students over the past two years, and the organization feels the loss. Executive arts director JoAnne Woodard wrote of the young singer's passing in an email early Tuesday.
Barry Stagg, Botkin's colleague at HITS, tweeted, "Laura, 27, was beautiful and talented. She taught many kids voice. This is a huge loss. You're never prepared for loss."
"To say she lived life to the fullest is an understatement . . . She had that love of singing and of making music that was contagious and she was also a committed actress," wrote Mentzer. "She lit up every room."