Investigators are still trying to determine whether a fatal crash involving a San Francisco Bay-area mother and daughter was accidental or intentional after their vehicle was spotted by dozens of onlookers driving through a parking lot without braking before plummeting off the side of a cliff at a popular northern California coastal lookout over the weekend.
Speaking with media on Monday, California Highway Patrol Officer David de Rutte said the cause of the crash that happened Saturday morning at the Bodega Bay’s 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 at the trail before plummeting off the side of 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.”
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office identified a woman in the passenger’s seat as Teixeira’s daughter, 41-year-old Elizabeth Correia.
Both women were found dead when rescuers made it down the side of the cliff and reached the vehicle, which landed on its roof on the rocks about 100 feet below, the Bodega Bay Fire Protection District said. Dozens of people witnessed the crash, as beachgoers and hikers had flocked to the scenic Pacific Ocean overlook to enjoy clear weather over the Easter holiday weekend.
De Rutte said a vehicle inspection would be conducted and an autopsy will be conducted to determine whether Teixeira was experiencing a medical condition at the time of the incident.
The mother and daughter lived in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Dublin, about 100 miles south of the crash site. Both were employees of public schools in the Bay Area, The Mercury News reported, citing 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.
Teixeira “was just a warm, good person, she was so smiley and happy. She helped everybody,” Erin Aitken, a teacher and former colleague told the newspaper, 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 bio on the school’s website said she taught in Pleasanton, where she grew up, since 2005.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office is handling the death investigation, which is expected to take between two to three months and will include conducting the autopsies, spokeswoman, Misti Wood, told Fox News when reached by phone Tuesday. California Highway Patrol is handling the investigation into the crash site and will determine whether it was intentional or accidental, she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.