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Christine Michelle Putnam of Niagara Falls lost her life Saturday night -- stopping to help a stranger.

The curly-haired 18-year-old was driving home from work at about 11:30 when she saw another car skid into a power pole on Niagara Falls Boulevard north of Forbes Road, North Tonawanda Police said.

She stopped to check on the well-being of the other driver and was killed instantly as she returned to her own car by a tractor-trailer driven by Frank Licata, 25, of Buffalo. No charges have been placed.

"This was typical of Tina," Miss Putnam's mother, Wanda, said softly Sunday. "She always went out of her way to help other people."

North Tonawanda Police said Sherry Verost Bravo, 27, of 2212 Weston Ave. in Niagara Falls, was driving the car that slid on the slick road and hit the pole. She was later treated and released from De Graff Memorial Hospital.

Licata was not injured, police said. The truck he was driving is owned by ML Motor Express in North Tonawanda. The accident is under investigation.

Mrs. Putnam and her husband, John, spoke of their daughter, through their grief, as "always bubbly . . . like the sun every day . . . just so special . . . so well liked."

Miss Putnam was in her first year as a scholarship student in accounting at Niagara Community College, they said. She was a 1990 graduate of LaSalle Senior High School in Niagara Falls and a member of the National Honor Society there.

"Her studies were so important; she was always at her studies," said her mother.

"She wanted to be an accountant," said her father.

Miss Putnam had been a waitress at the Ponderosa Steak House on Niagara Falls Boulevard and at the Falls Street Diner, both in Niagara Falls, before beginning work at O'Toole's Maple Road Restaurant in Amherst about a month ago.

"She was a great person -- she made you real happy to be around," said O'Toole's general manager, Paul Martell. "She was a very smart, very intelligent person."

Martell also said 11:30 p.m. Saturday "was just about the time she would be driving home" from the restaurant at 4350 Maple Road in Amherst.

"It was very like Tina to try to help someone else," said a close friend who was comforting the Putnams in their home at 1239 91st St. in Niagara Falls.

Miss Putnam is survived, besides her parents, by a half-sister, Lisa Chapin of Grand Island; a half-brother, Airman Anthony Guetta of the U.S. Air Force, stationed in Germany, and her maternal grandmother, Marie Komoroski of Las Vegas, Nev.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered for Miss Putnam at 9 a.m. Thursday in St. Charles Catholic Church, 56th Street and Lindbergh Avenue in Niagara Falls. Burial will be in Heavenly Gate Cemetery.

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