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Accident claims life of sheriff’s crime scene tech

Investigator struck at scene of drive-by

Accident claims life of sheriff’s crime scene tech

Members of the California Highway Patrol Major Accident Investigation Team from Fresno investigate the Friday morning accident scene that took the life of Stanislaus County Sheriff’s crime scene in...


POSTED December 30, 2011 8:27 p.m.

A Stanislaus County Sheriff’s crime scene investigator was killed Friday morning after being struck by a vehicle while collecting evidence at the scene of a drive-by shooting in Hughson.

Mary Donahou, 46, of Ceres was rushed to a nearby hospital following the accident, but the head injuries she sustained proved fatal and she was pronounced dead shortly after the early morning collision.

Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson made the sad announcement of Donahou’s death at a press conference Friday morning surrounded by somber sheriff’s personnel.

“It is with a heavy heart that I let the community know about a tragic death,” Christianson said. “This is a tragedy for her family, the sheriff’s department and community. It’s not very often that we lose a family member here at the sheriff’s department in the line of duty. It’s a tragedy when it happens and in this case it’s simply a tragic accident.”

The driver of the sports utility vehicle that struck Donahou was identified as Elizabeth Quiroga, 38, of Hughson. Quiroga is a dispatcher at the Turlock Police Department and was on her way to work when the accident occurred, said Turlock Police Capt. Carl Nielsen.

The accident is being investigated by the California Highway Patrol’s Major Accident Investigation Team based out of Fresno.

The CHP report states alcohol and drugs were not a factor in the collision.

The tragic event was set into motion around 6:30 a.m. Friday when Donahou was dispatched to a home near the intersection of Santa Fe Avenue and Charles Street in Hughson to assist in the investigation of a drive-by shooting.

Donahou arrived at the scene and parked her sheriff’s department vehicle on the west shoulder of southbound Santa Fe. A sheriff’s deputy was already at the scene and was speaking to the residents of the home, Christianson said.

It is unknown at this time if either vehicle had the emergency lights activated.

Donahou had been at the scene for about 15 minutes before she was struck.

CHP spokesman Eric Parsons said the conditions were dark, but clear of any fog.

Quiroga was traveling southbound on Santa Fe at about 35 mph in her 2000 Suzuki Grand Vitara. The posted speed limit is 45 mph.

Quiroga told CHP investigators she didn’t see Donahou in the road until it was too late. No skid marks were present at the scene.

The CHP report states the left front of the Suzuki struck Donahou. Quiroga made a quick U-turn and promptly went to check on Donahou. A witness also stopped at the scene.

There were no other reported injuries.

Quiroga was cooperating fully with investigators, Parsons said.

A chaplain from the Turlock Police Department was called to the scene to assist Quiroga.

“We are supporting her as best as we can,” Nielsen said.

It’s unknown at this time if Donahou was crossing the street or if she was in the process of photographing evidence or collecting shell casings.

No one was injured during the drive-by shooting, though bullets did strike the home.

Donahou was a nine year veteran of the sheriff’s department and Christianson said she was “well-loved and well-respected.”

“Mary loved her job,” Christianson said. “She loved serving the community and the community loved her as well. Her personnel file is filled with commendations from peer supervisors and citizens and her passion and commitment to service, to providing forensic services to the deputy sheriffs on our staff is recognized. But at the same time, we are going to miss her.”

Donahou just recently took part in a holiday charity shopping excursion for underprivileged children.

She leaves behind her 12-year-old son Jake, as well as her parents and a sister, all from the Modesto and Ceres communities. Services are pending.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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