A mother and her 7-year-old son, who were walking in a marked crosswalk on their way to his midtown school, were struck and killed by a car Wednesday morning.
The pair was crossing East Pima Street near North Swan Road at about 7:30 a.m. when they were struck by a car traveling east on Pima, said Officer Chris Hawkins, a Tucson Police Department spokesman.
The child was Ethan Mentzer, 7, a second-grader at St. Cyril of Alexandria, a school about a block from where he and his mother, Anna Mentzer, were struck.
Mentzer, a chef who had also graduated from St. Cyril’s, was walking her son to school. Their home is a couple of blocks south of the Catholic school.
Her older son, Eli, a fifth-grader at the school, was not with them because he was at home sick, said family friend Molly Bednar. Eli was in the care of Anna’s brother, Clement Mentzer, who also lives in the neighborhood.
Tucson Fire Department paramedics were the first to arrive at the crash and began treating Mentzer, a 37-year-old single mother, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Ethan was taken to Banner-University Medical Center Tucson where he died, said Hawkins.
Traffic detectives determined that the car was traveling east on Pima in the median lane, approaching North Mountain View Avenue. Mentzer and her son were crossing Pima near Mountain View in the crosswalk when they were struck.
The woman driving the car stayed at the scene and cooperated with detectives. She showed no signs of impairment, and no citations have been issued, Hawkins said.
Since January, there have been 24 pedestrian fatalities in the city — compared with 11 at this time last year — and six of those have occurred since Sept. 27, police data show.
Friends of Mentzer and her boys were trying to deal with the news late Wednesday.
“I am in total shock right now,” said Sarah Lamberth. “I talked to her recently, and she told me her kids were everything to her.
“Anna was always, always positive. When things were bad, she could always see the silver lining. She was a really beautiful soul,” said Lamberth, adding that the boys loved to camp with their mom on Mount Lemmon.
Friends said Mentzer had taught cooking classes at The Art Institute of Tucson and was sharing her love for cooking with her sons. She began teaching them about Italian dishes, said Lamberth.
Molly Bednar said her children played well with Mentzer’s boys.
“We would hang out together at birthday parties, and we would have play dates and take them swimming and camping.”
Bednar wrote in a Facebook post: “Love you Anna. Rest in Peace my friend. I promise to look after Eli for you.”
Daniel Ribbentrop, of San Antonio, Texas, said he first met Mentzer in 1999 after she graduated from Salpointe Catholic High School in 1998. She was attending Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio and received a bachelor’s degree and later moved to Phoenix to attend Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale, he said.
“She was a wonderful person who worked several jobs to support her kids,” said Ribbentrop.
Then she began working for Tucson Unified School District in the food services department “where she really found happiness,” he said. “Everything was going her way for a change.”
“Everyone is heartbroken in the department,” said Michelle Valenzuela, a TUSD spokeswoman, as employees heard about her death.
“Anna was a very free spirit,” said Ribbentrop. “She was a big Grateful Dead fan. She was a modern hippie. Her sons were rambunctious, happy little boys. They were doing well in school, and she enjoyed spending time with them. Her kids were her absolute life.”
Ethan and his older brother were new to St. Cyril’s this year, principal Ann Zeches said.
“The St. Cyril’s school and parish family is working together to help everyone deal with this loss of the friend and classmate, and his mother,” said Steff Koeneman, a spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson.
Counselors were on hand to speak to students Wednesday and will be back Thursday, Koeneman said.
At the end of the school day Wednesday, St. Cyril’s held a prayer service for students, parents and community members. An overflow crowd packed the pews and aisles at the church.
“We are a family,” Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas told the crowd. “We care for one another, and we are there for one another.”