Investigators are still trying to determine whether a fatal accident involving a mother and daughter in the San Francisco Bay area was accidental or intentional after their vehicle was seen by dozens of onlookers driving through a parking lot without brake before plummeting off the side of a cliff at a popular Northern California coastal overlook for the weekend.
Speaking to the media Monday, California Highway Patrol Officer David de Rutte said the cause of the accident that occurred Saturday morning on the Bodega Bay Head Trail was still under investigation. It’s unclear why Maria Teixeira, 64, kept driving her Toyota SUV through a wooden barrier in a large parking area on the trail before plummeting off the side of the cliff.
“Witnesses saw the vehicle driving through the parking lot, and it kept driving,” de Rutte said. “It didn’t stop. It didn’t accelerate, but it didn’t stop either.”
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The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office identified a woman in the passenger seat as Teixeira’s daughter, Elizabeth Correia, 41.
Both women were found dead when rescuers came down the side of the cliff and reached the vehicle, which landed on its roof over the rocks about 100 feet below, the Bodega Bay Fire Protection District said. Dozens of people witnessed the crash, as beach goers and hikers flocked to the picturesque Pacific Ocean lookout to enjoy the clear weather over the Easter holiday weekend.
De Rutte said an inspection of the vehicle will be conducted and an autopsy will be conducted to determine if Teixeira was experiencing a medical condition at the time of the incident.
The mother and daughter lived in the city of Dublin in the San Francisco Bay area, about 100 miles south of the crash site. Both were employees of public schools in the Bay Area, The Mercury News reported, citing family members and sheriff’s officials. Teixeira was the lead custodian at Montevideo Elementary in nearby San Ramón, and Correia was a first-grade teacher at Lydiksen Elementary in Pleasanton.
Teixeira “was just a warm and good person, she was so smiling and happy. She helped everyone,” Erin Aitken, a teacher and former colleague, told the newspaper, recalling how proud Teixeira was when her daughter became a teacher. “She was a great cheerleader for her children. And she clearly loved being around children.”
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Correia’s bio on the school’s website says that she taught in Pleasanton, where she grew up, since 2005.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office is handling the investigation into the death, which is expected to take two to three months and will include conducting autopsies, spokeswoman Misti Wood told Fox News when contacted by phone on Tuesday. The California Highway Patrol is handling the investigation at the crash site and will determine whether it was intentional or accidental, he said.
Associated Press contributed to this report.