WOODACRE, Calif. (BCN) - A woman was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter after striking and killing a bicyclist Monday evening in the Woodacre area of unincorporated Marin County, California Highway Patrol officials said today.
"It's hard for our community for sure. Especially with the little ones who don't understand 100% what happened," said parent Alison Morris.
Long time teacher Debra DiBenedetto, 63, of San Geronimo, was riding her bicycle at about 5:30 Monday evening along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard near Raiload Avenue in Woodacre when she was struck and killed by an apparent drunk driver.
The school had to tell second graders their teacher was gone.
"Communications have been pretty direct with parents and the kids about the death. That she did die," said Dixie School Superintendent Jason Yanashiro.
CHP officers responded to the collision around 5:35 p.m. The bicyclist was found in a ditch near the right shoulder, and was pronounced dead at Marin General Hospital, CHP Officer Andrew Barclay said.
According to the CHP, it appears the collision occurred on the shoulder of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, not in a traffic lane of the road, and the bicyclist was not wearing a helmet.
" People tend to associate DUI's with being late at night or early morning. They can be out there at any point in time," said Barclay.
DiBenedetto had been a teacher for more than 20 years.
"She was amazing. Strong teacher. She taught the kids a lot. She was very dedicated. And she had a green thumb," said Morris whose son was in DiBenedetto's class last year.
"She was passionate about teaching. She was passionate about kids," said Yanashiro.
The driver of a 2006 Ford Explorer, Paula Elizabeth Drake, 24, of Fairfax, was arrested and booked under $500,000 bail in Marin County Jail on suspicion of DUI causing death and gross vehicular manslaughter, according to jail logs.
The school has grief counselors. The joy of Halloween has been shattered by an apparent drunk driver.