"Built like a gazelle, tall, long legs, blonde hair, just an absolutely beautiful lady,"said Irwin of Gambale.
The two haven't seen each other in years, but remain "Facebook" friends.
Irwin said Gambale was a sports superstar in junior high and also when they attended Clairemont High School together.
"Dominique has always been an extreme athlete, she was the fastest girl in the school,"said Irwin.
When Irwin found out Gambale had been severely injured after last Saturday's cab crash outside Stingaree nightclub, her heart dropped.
"She's such an athlete that it would be hard for her to continue without sports as a part of her life,"said Irwin.
Doctors at UCSD Medical Center said Gambale's right leg had sustained serious damage, including broken bones and a large open wound.
If it gets infected, there's a chance they may have to amputate it.
"We are not sure that things are going to continue to go well as far as salvaging her limb is concerned, but at this point things look good,"said Paul Girard, M.D. "She and I, and the whole team are optimistic."
Irwin is more than optimistic. She said if anyone can overcome adversity like this, it's Gambale.
"I'm sure she'll probably show all the doctors up and be able to walk someday and even run," Irwin told NBCSanDiego.