The woman killed when a tire broke loose from a passing vehicle and struck the windshield of her SUV Wednesday afternoon in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, was identified Thursday as a beloved first grade teacher in the Hudson school system.
State police identified the victim as Erin Beth MacKay, 42, of Templeton.
MacKay was a first grade teacher at Forest Avenue Elementary School and had been with the Hudson Public Schools for 12 years. She is survived by her husband and two daughters.
"Ms. MacKay was an amazing educator, known by families and colleagues as a kind and caring individual who cared deeply for her students," Hudson Superintendent Marco Rodrigues said in a statement. "Her unexpected passing is a tragic loss for her family and for the Hudson School Community."
MacKay was a mentor to many children, including Jordan Afonso.
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"She was a wonderful teacher. Me, having bad eyesight as a kid, she'd always ask me every day if I could see the board, she'd always make sure that I was paying attention in class and doing everything I can to succeed, and I have to say she really built the foundation of who I am today," Afonso said. "It's just terrible to see her go. I'm sorry to get emotional like this."
"Always there for the kids, no matter what, and she's really going to be missed," added parent Nicole Walton. "I feel so bad for her family."
Rodrigues said district counselors are available to support students, parents and staff affected by MacKay's death.
Police originally believed the tire was from a passing tractor trailer but later revised their description of the vehicle. Now investigators are seeking to determine what vehicle the tire and rim came from.
Fire officials said the tire struck the windshield of an SUV that was traveling westbound, badly injuring the driver. She was transported to Leominster Hospital with serious head injuries and later taken by helicopter to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, where she died.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Leominster State Police Barracks at (978) 537-2188.