As the community of Paso Robles mourns the death of a teenage girl hit Tuesday by a vehicle on Highway 101, authorities continue to investigate the cause of the fatal collision.
California Highway Patrol’s Templeton office confirmed Thursday that Emilee Ruiz, 17, was struck when she was walking along the road near Templeton around 11 p.m.
The girl’s former teacher, Edwin Martinez, said she was enrolled at Paso Robles High School and also took some courses at Liberty.
Martinez said he couldn’t believe the news.
“I read the report the night before, someone was killed, I didn’t think of any connection with any of my students,” Martinez said. “As soon as I found out it was Emilee, it was hard to believe.”
It’s been eight years since he taught Ruiz in his 4th grade class, but for Martinez, no time has passed.
“It seemed like I just saw her yesterday, it’s crazy,” Martinez said. “It’s hard to swallow,”
Martinez said Emilee’s big smile and positive attitude made her stand out. Her big heart made Emilee unforgettable.
“That was a very special group too because that year I got married with my wife and that group, along with Emilee, planned a classroom wedding for me and my wife,” Martinez said.
His students helped make memories that are so dear to Martinez, he wanted to honor Emilee’s memory, creating a video montage of classroom photos.
“Our schools are like families,” Carol Kenyon, the chief academic officer for Paso Robles Joint Unified School District, said.
District administrators are now offering counseling services to fellow classmates and teachers of Ruiz who are grieving.
“To be able to offer that in our school environment, not only do they feel more comfortable because it’s with people they know or are familiar with but the convenience of having it right there on the school site and feel comfortable with,” Kenyon said.
Memorials now mark the place of Ruiz’s death and the space where her memory will live on.
A memorial account has been set up at Wells Fargo to help the Ruiz family with funeral expenses. Those who’d like to donate should reference account number 2589519897.
The family is planning a memorial service for Emilee at 11 a.m. on March 15 at First Baptist Church in Paso Robles. The community is invited to attend.