Source: Valley Roadrunner

Elderly couple killed Sunday morning by alleged drunk driver

July 11, 2013

Many residents were shocked and saddened Sunday when they learned that an elderly Valley Center couple who had been walking hand-in-hand along Old Castle Road every morning for at least a quarter century had been killed by an alleged drunk driver.

The couple’s names have not yet been released by the Medical Examiner’s office, but many people who saw the couple walking say they were Carl and Eunice Ackermann, retired elementary school teachers who lived on Old Castle. He was 79 and she was 78 years old.

The deaths occurred Sunday, July 7, at about 6:15 a.m., when 20-year-old Earl Smith Jr. from Oceanside was driving his 2011 Toyota Corolla eastbound on Old Castle Road near Mauka Drive at an unknown speed, according to California Highway Patrol spokesman Jim Bettencourt.

Smith drifted to the right of the roadway and collided with the couple who were walking eastbound with their backs to traffic, according to Bettencourt. Both were from Valley Center and died instantly on scene. The couple was well known to community members for walking in that area.

A neighbor heard the collision, went outside and called 911. Valley Center Fire Department personnel responded to the scene and confirmed their deaths. The driver was arrested on scene and transported to Vista detention facility. He was booked on suspicion of felony driving under the influence of alcohol and vehicular manslaughter, said Bettencourt.

This collision remains under investigation.

The Roadrunner has rarely encountered an outpouring of sadness such as the death of the Ackermanns has provoked. Many people were inspired by the couple’s obvious devotion to each other although some had been concerned about them walking on a road that has such a narrow dirt walkway.

Several members of the community were discussing the idea of having a memorial walk in honor of the couple, but at press time no date had been set. Others have also talked about planting a memorial tree or plaque in their honor.

One reader from The Roadrunner’s Facebook page commented that he used to see them for many years, “All the way back since I use to ride the school bus.” Roxanne Greene said, “I saw them every morning on my way to work and waved at them. They were almost always holding hands and I worried about something like this happening to them.”

Randy Martin said, “This is horrible news. I just saw them walking last week. They were so loving to each other. Never didn't see them holding hands.”

“I was always so worried when I saw them walking in that road but I always thought it was so sweet that they always held hands,” said Julie Picot.

Vanessa Rios said, “I passed them every morning and wished for a relationship like they had! Hand-in-hand every day!”

Michelle Johnson commented, “When I read this earlier today I called my dad who works for the water district and grew up on Lilac Road. He remembered them walking (and) holding hands thirty years ago, as he would go to high school. And all his years driving up Old Castle every morning going to work. He said ‘just Friday, I watched them as they held hands, just like every other day.’”

“My husband and I also admired their love and dedication to each other. It's amazing that they touched the lives of so many people without even knowing,” said Amanda Norskog.

“This absolutely breaks my heart,” said Shelley Dawson Pearson, “For years they brought a smile to my face as I passed them in the morning. The way they held hands each and every day melted my heart and I always felt blessed to be able to see them.”

“So sad to hear about this. Been driving this road for over 25 years and always saw them. They would make me smile when I saw them,” said Eileen M. Velasquez. “The drive is forever changed today.”

Michelle Fernandez said she was “worried about them every time I saw them walking on the side of the road around the curves.”

Marisela Gonzalez added, “This is so incredibly sad. Even though they were an elderly couple, I'm sure they still had so much life ahead of them. They are most definitely significant to our little town and all of Valley Center will mourn their loss. Their dedication to each other is truly inspirational. These two are now resting in peace together and I don't think they would have had it any other way.”

Lenny Kerbs said, I saw them walking along the narrow edge of Old Castle nearly every day. Always carrying a plastic bag to collect trash or cans as they walked. I was always impressed that they took that long walk everyday—but also always worried about their safety on that narrow roadway. May they rest in the arms of their maker. They will be missed!”

“My family and I are devastated over this news. We have seen them 3-4 times a week for many, many years. Our hearts are heavy. They were like old friends to our neighborhood," said Suzie Durant.

Patti Lechmann added, “They were a highlight to my morning as I drove to work ... no matter what kind of day it started out as I would see this loving couple and it would bring a warm feeling and a happy smile to my day! They were taken to our Lord the way they spent each and every day: together, holding hands!"