BODEGA BAY (KPIX) -- A Pleasanton elementary school teacher and her mother were identified Monday as the victims killed when their SUV plunged over a scenic Pacific Ocean overlook near Bodega Bay and crashed about 100 feet below onto a rock-strewn beach.
Sonoma County Sheriff's Office identified the victims in Saturday's crash as 41-year-old Elizabeth Correia, a first-grade teacher at Lydiksen Elementary School, and her mother, 64-year-old Maria Teixeira Teixeira, lead custodian at Montevideo Elementary School in San Ramon.
The two Dublin residents were in a gold Toyota Rav4 which plunged over the overlook at a parking lot near the Bodega Trailhead just after 11:30 a.m. as stunned holiday weekend visitors watched.
Correia grew up in Pleasanton and attended Pleasanton Middle School and Foothill High School. She has been teaching at Lydiksen Elementary for 16 years.
"Our hearts go out to Elizabeth Correia's family and our Lydiksen community," the Pleasanton Unified School District said in a statement to KPIX 5. "Elizabeth touched the lives of many of her students and colleagues. We will have support and counseling services available when school resumes next Monday."
Monday night, a former student and her family left flowers and a candle in her memory. It's a tragic loss that has many in disbelief.
"Honestly I didn't believe it. I was really really shocked," said parent Gabriel Castillo.
Castillo knew Correia as his daughter's first grade teacher. He says Ms. Correia touched so many at Lydiksen Elementary and her love for anything Disney helped create a bond with his daughter. Castillo adds, "She found a way to connect with her, that was through Disney."
Deanna Guitron and her family created a memorial. Ms Correia was Guitron's first grade teacher.
"She was really understanding and she had a living, motherly type feel. She was really fun to be around, she was a really good teacher," said Guitron.
Family members did not want to speak on camera but a close friend shared a message.
"Her close girlfriends all wanted to grow old with her myself included. I'm really happy I told her how much I admired her strength and kindness before she passed," Amy Jine said.
Jine stresses this was just a terrible accident. CHP investigators agree but they need to look at the possibility of medical or mechanical issues before making a final determination.
The district is currently on Spring Break and students at Lydiksen will return on April 12. In a letter to parents, PUSD said a team of counselors and therapists will be at Lydiksen to provide support to students and staff.
Patrick Gannon with the Pleasanton Unified School District says, "This is a heartbreaking loss. Elizabeth has been part of our Pleasanton community for over 15 years."
In a letter to the Montevideo Elementary school community, Principal Katie Witt said Teixiera had been the custodian at the school since 2000.
"She was a wonderful part of our school community and was well-loved by staff, students and parents, alike," said Witt. "I know that this news is difficult to receive. It has impacted all of us. For years, Mrs. Maria was a fixture in our community. 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. The kids loved her kind smile and reassuring presence. She will be greatly missed."
The California Highway Patrol said a preliminary investigation showed their vehicle was traveling westbound through the parking lot at an unknown speed when it hit a log barrier on the perimeter. The SUV moved the barrier and continued over the cliff and landed on the rocks.
Witnesses told the CHP it does not appear the Toyota was speeding or driving unsafely prior to the collision and that the SUV entered the parking lot and continued driving westbound without slowing or stopping.
Crews from the Bodega Bay Fire Protection District, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office including its Henry 1 helicopter and other neighboring agencies responded to the scene.
The CHP said it would continue to interview witnesses from the scene and a vehicle inspection will be completed. CHP Officer David de Rutte said investigators will look into several factors, including medical conditions, autopsy results, the vehicle, and witness statements.
Andrea Nakano contributed to this report.
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