A mother and daughter died after their car plunged off the edge of a scenic coastal overlook in Northern California over the weekend, falling 100 feet as nearly a dozen onlookers watched, authorities said Monday.
California Highway Patrol spokesman David deRutte said it was unclear why Maria Teixeira, 64, kept driving after she hit a barrier at a trailhead parking lot in Bodega Bay, about 70 miles north of San Francisco.
Teixeira’s daughter, Elizabeth Correia, 41, was identified as the passenger in the crash that happened around 11:00 a.m. Saturday.
DeRutte said their Toyota SUV entered the large, gravel lot with no parking spaces and “was driving at a normal speed. It was driving toward the cliff and didn’t stop. There was no acceleration and no braking.”
Photos from the scene showed the SUV on its roof on the rocks below. Between eight and 10 witnesses saw the fatal plunge, deRutte said.
Authorities are trying to piece together what happened, he said. A vehicle inspection needs to be conducted, and an autopsy will determine if Teixeira was experiencing a medical condition at the time of the crash, deRutte said.
The mother and daughter were from Pleasanton, a San Francisco Bay-area suburb. The San Jose Mercury News reported that both worked at elementary schools in the area — Correia as a first-grade teacher and Teixeira as the lead custodian.
Fellow first-grade teacher Tracie Culpepper described Correia as a compassionate, dedicated and natural teacher.
“She was my person, and I was hers,” Culpepper told the newspaper. “I don’t know what I’m going to do without her.”
In a letter Monday, the principal of the school where Teixeira worked, Montevideo Elementary, called her a “fixture in our community,” the Mercury News reported.
“She could be found on our campus every day doing whatever needed to be done to serve the community. Wherever there were people, wherever there was an activity, wherever there was someone who needed help, Mrs. Maria was there and willing to help.”