Pacifica band teacher dies from freak accident in school parking lot

- For much of Thursday, grief stricken students and teachers visited an ever-growing memorial near the Ida B. Lacy Middle School parking lot.

It was here they mourned and remembered Jerry Downs, a band teacher who by all accounts was adored by students, and whose freakish death has unsettled them and his co-workers.

"Shocked and saddened throughout the district. Mr. Downs touched many children's lives," said Tom Stafford who was also a music teacher in Pacifica.

Downs died Wednesday morning when his own car rolled over him in the school parking lot. The assumption by many is Downs had failed to put his car in park when he got out. He was 62 years old.

No students saw any part of what happened.

"Just a freakish accident," said Dan Lyttle, principal at the middle school.

Lyttle says Downs built up the band program and devoted his life to it.

"Weekends he would be here getting kids ready to go out on marching band competitions. He'd be here at four in the morning getting things ready to go. Jerry was all about providing for his kids,” said Lyttle.

Downs and his band students won numerous awards over the 15 years he taught in Pacifica. He wasn't afraid to teach difficult musical pieces.

"A piece by Edward Grieg – he heard that and said I can arrange that for kids and he did. He just made it dynamic for the kids," said Stafford.

The school has brought in grief counselors and the principal says getting through the past two days has been difficult.

"The kids knew Mr. Downs classroom was a safe place for those who didn't fit anyplace else. And that's how he reached his kids," said Lyttle.

"He had energy to spare. The teaching profession was truly his passion and he shared that passion with his kids," said Stafford.

The school says at some point soon it will hold a special tribute for Jerry Downs, most likely a musical tribute to a dedicated music teacher.


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