San Francisco educator killed in Richmond-San Rafael big-rig crash had promising life

Family members are remembering Michael Baroja as loving and hard-working.

He died after a big rig crashed into his stalled car while he driving home from work.

The 31-year-old had worked at Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary in the Sunset neighborhood in San Francisco for six years.

His parents and sister said he loved helping children.

"It really fills my heart when the kids, with the pictures and the parents are sharing with us," said Daisy Baroja, his mother.    

The parents and sister of Baroja found comfort in the outpouring of support from students, parents and the staff at the school.

He had been a technology educator and after school teacher.

"I didn't know how impactful he is to the school," said Daisy.

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On the night of Jan. 26 shortly before 7 p.m., the California Highway Patrol said Baroja's 1988 Toyota Supra  stalled while he was driving on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge going eastbound. His car caught on fire after a big rig crashed into it from behind. 

Baroja was trapped in his car and died at the scene. Investigators said drugs and alcohol are not factors.

"My heart was beating very fast.  My chest felt really hollow.  I felt really cold," said his sister Kristine.

"He is a very loving kid.  We are very close," his father Zosimo Baroja said he and his son had built up the Toyota Supra involved in the crash together. 

Working on old cars was their hobby and so was fishing.

The family spent a lot of time together.

They said Baroja was on his way home to San Pablo after work when he was killed. 

"It's so hard because he had everything ahead of him, everything. Everything was lining up for him," Kristine said her brother was planning to marry his longtime girlfriend and was scheduled to leave for Hawaii just two days after his death. 

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He had hopes of going back to school to become a credentialed teacher.

"Mike meant so much to us. He was loved so much," retired teacher Dennis Molina said Baroja, known as Mr. B to his students, helped them with his computer skills and kindness., 

"He would deliver computers to their homes  He would talk to parents on the phone," said Molina. 

Loved ones said Baroja has a short but impactful life.

"I wish I could see him just one more time," said his father Zosimo Baroja.

The  family plans to hold memorial services for Michael Baroja Feb. 10 and 11 at Fairfield Funeral Home at 4:30 p.m. 

He would have celebrated his 32nd birthday on Feb. 9. 

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