A 69-year-old community activist died on Saturday after being struck in Mission Beach on Friday by a car whose driver is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs when he got into a road rage incident that led to the deadly crash.
Maruta Gardner was cleaning up graffiti when she was hit about 5:45 p.m. Friday at the entrance to the jetty at 800 San Diego Place, authorities said.
She suffered a skull fracture and had been hospitalized with fatal injuries, according to San Diego Police Department Officer Robert Heims.
The 23-year-old suspect, whose name has not been released, was driving a black Toyota Corolla when he and a motorist in a white Ford Mustang became involved in a case of road rage, Heims said.
“The suspect sped to the right of the Mustang, driving along the shoulder and struck the victim,” Heims said.
The suspect drove from the scene but was stopped nearby by officers, Heims said. The man was evaluated and arrested on suspicion of DUI.
The Mustang driver has not been identified. Gardner had served as principal at Mission Bay High School and also as superintendent of a city school district, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, which reported that she led numerous Mission Beach Women’s Club fundraising events, some to help military veterans take so-called honor flights to Washington, D.C.
She had recently been honored by the San Diego City Council, which declared Nov. 3 Maruta Gardner Day, the newspaper reported.
“So sad to hear that Maruta Gardner has passed away. What a wonderful volunteer to the Mission Beach community,” tweeted City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, whose second district includes Mission Beach.
The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Zapf, who serves as vice-chair of the council’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee, giving Gardner a framed proclamation.
— City News Service
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