Dozens of people at a popular Northern California coastal overlook watched as an SUV drove through a parking lot without braking and then plunged off a cliff into the rocks below, killing two women, investigators said Monday.
The cause of the weekend crash was still under investigation, California Highway Patrol Officer David de Rutte said. Initial witness accounts indicated that the vehicle drove through a wooden barrier in a large parking area at the Bodega Bay’s Head Trail before it went off the cliff.
“Witnesses saw the vehicle driving through the parking lot — and it just kept driving,” de Rutte said. “It didn’t stop. There was no accelerating but also no braking.”
Investigators were still trying to determine if the crash was accidental or intentional, he said.
Both women were found dead when rescuers made it down to the Toyota SUV, which had landed on its roof on the rocks about 100 feet (30 meters) below.
Authorities identified the driver as Maria Teixeira, 64, and the passenger as Elizabeth Correia, 41, both of the San Francisco Bay Area city of Dublin, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of the crash site.
The Mercury News reported they were mother and daughter, both employees of public schools in the Bay Area, according to relatives and sheriff’s officials. Teixeira was lead custodian at Montevideo Elementary in nearby San Ramon, and Correia was a first-grade teacher at Lydiksen Elementary in Pleasanton.
Erin Aitken, a teacher and former colleague of Teixeira’s, struggled like many who knew her to make sense of the crash.
“She was just a warm, good person, she was so smiley and happy. She helped everybody,” Aitken said, remembering how proud Teixeira was when her daughter became a teacher. “She was a big cheerleader for her kids. And she clearly loved being around children.”
Correia’s biography on the school’s website said she had taught in Pleasanton, where she grew up, since 2005.
“She enjoys teaching, reading, music, art, movies, Disneyland and spending time with friends and family,” the website says.
The crash happened Saturday as hikers and beachgoers flocked to the scenic Pacific Ocean overlook to take advantage of clear weather on the Easter holiday weekend.