A fatal Atascadero vehicle collision on Sunday also injured a teacher whose school faced another tragic car crash earlier this year.
Ruth Cahill, 72, an aide at the Atascadero Fine Arts Academy, sustained major injuries after she and Thomas Cahill, 71, were involved in a collision on Highway 101 south of San Ramon Road in Atascadero.
Another Fine Arts Academy aide, Shari Frace, suffered a family tragedy as well just last month. Her daughters, Brynn and Brittni Frace — both Atascadero High School graduates — died in January after their car collided with a semi truck near Coalinga.
The Cahills’ collision occurred about 4:50 p.m. on Sunday, when the two were traveling north in a 1989 Alfa Romeo convertible.
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Thomas Cahill made an unsafe lane change, and the left side of his car collided with the right side of a 2016 Hyundai sedan driven by Melissa Smith, 42, of Selma, California, according to a California Highway Patrol news release.
Cahill then turned right and lost control of the Alfa Romeo, which veered onto the dirt shoulder, traveled up a dirt embankment and rolled over.
As the car rolled, Thomas Cahill, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from the vehicle. Ruth Cahill who was wearing her seatbelt, remained inside the car during the rollover and was trapped inside when it came to rest upside down.
Both Cahills were taken to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo for treatment, where Thomas Cahill died, according to the release.
Ruth Cahill sustained major injuries and was listed in fair condition as of Wednesday evening, according to Shannon Downing, a hospital spokeswoman. The collision remains under investigation.
Claire Missire, a seventh- and eighth-grade history teacher at the Fine Arts Academy, said her coworker “always has a smile on her face and a positive outlook.”
“She is ever-thoughtful and never misses an opportunity to ask about our families and how we are,” Missire wrote in an email. “She is sincere and warm and deeply invested in the well-being of our students. She is just a really, really kind person.”
Missire said the past couple of months have been “an incredibly emotional time” at the Fine Arts Academy: “It’s truly difficult to comprehend.”
“We are a small, close-knit staff,” she wrote. “When members of our Fine Arts family suffer, we all suffer with them. I think that, in a way, the recent tragedies have served as a perspective check for us, reminding us to be grateful for every opportunity we have to be with those we love. They also have reminded us of the importance of sharing the burden of sadness.”