Fraser Valley Elementary School principal dies in two-car accident
April 1, 2008
Tragedy struck Tuesday morning when Principal Reba Ferguson of Fraser Valley Elementary School was killed in a traffic accident on U.S. Highway 40 between Tabernash and the top of Red Dirt Hill.
According to the Granby office of the Colorado State Patrol, the accident that claimed the 44-year-old Fraser resident’s life took place about 8:35 a.m. Road conditions were described as “snowpacked and icy with sand treatment on the road.”
Driving a Nissan Pathfinder, Ferguson lost control on a slippery section of roadway about two miles west of Tabernash. The State Patrol said her vehicle “rotated counterclockwise and traveled into the eastbound lane” of Highway 40 where it collided with a Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by 35-year-old Victor Ruiz of Granby.
The impact of the collision resulted in both vehicles coming to rest facing south on the shoulder of the eastbound lane. Both drivers were reported to have been wearing seatbelts.
Emergency vehicles from Grand County EMS, East Grand Fire Department and Granby Fire Department responded immediately to the accident site. Both victims had to extricated from their damaged vehicles.
Ferguson was pronounced dead at the scene. An Air Life helicopter airlifted Ruiz to Denver General Hospital. His condition is not known at this time, but Sgt. Gary Meirose of the Granby office of the State Patrol said he is expected to survive.
Along with the Colorado State Patrol, law enforcement officers from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office and the Fraser-Winter Park Police Department responded to the scene. Also assisting at the accident site were representatives of the Grand County Coroner and the Colorado Department of Transportation.
According to school district staff members, Ferguson was on her way to a 9 a.m. meeting at the East Grand District Office in Granby to discuss this summer’s construction plans for Fraser Valley Elementary when the accident occurred. She has been the Fraser school’s principal for the past seven years.
Superintendent Robb Rankin expressed the district’s grief for the loss of a friend and colleague, saying that “Reba will be sorely missed.”
After learning of the Ferguson’s fatal accident Tuesday morning, the East Grand School District reacted immediately to provide comfort and support to Fraser Valley Elementary. Rankin and Nancy Karas, the East Grand Middle School principal and next superintendent, both drove to the school that morning to talk with staff and students.
“The teachers at Fraser Valley Elementary were incredible, dealing with their own grief while continuing to work with the kids,” Rankin said. “Many of the teachers’ emotions were hanging by a thread, but they never let go of their students.”
Also arriving at the school to provide help grief counseling and emotional support were two counselors, Ellen Auchincloss, a Colorado West Mental Health counselor and former school district teacher, and Clarise McGowan, a retired East Grand Middle School counselor.
Parents of Fraser Valley Elementary students were informed of the tragedy and given the option of picking up their children early from the school Tuesday.
Out of respect for Ferguson’s death, President Tom Sifers announced the East Grand Board of Education had canceled Tuesday night’s scheduled school board meeting.
Despite the tragedy, the district plans to hold regular classes for the rest of this week, which is the final one before spring break.
“We will be holding school again Wednesday and Thursday at Fraser Valley Elementary,” Rankin said. “We’re trying to keep as normal a routine as possible.”
A tribute assembly to honor Ferguson will be held at the school Wednesday at 1 p.m. While primarily for students and staff of that school, Rankin said parents are also welcome to attend.
“We sent a note home to parents about it with the students,” he said. “We want it to be a chance for everyone to talk and share a little bit before spring break.”
Ferguson’s tragic death follows only a week after the announcement that she would be leaving her principal’s job to become the Director of Student Achievement for the East Grand Schools. She was selected from among 14 applicants for the directorship, which is a new position with the school district.
Shock and grief were evident at the East Grand District Office late Tuesday morning as staff members struggled to come to terms with Ferguson’s death. They pointed to the office in that building that was being prepared for her once she officially assumed her duties as Director of Student Achievement on July 1.
In addition to her seven years as Fraser Valley Elementary’s principal, Ferguson had worked as an assistant principal and classroom and special education teacher at the elementary and middle school levels with the Roaring Fork School District.
A 1986 graduate of the University of Northern Colorado, Ferguson earned a master’s degree in special education from UNC in 1990. At the time of her death, she was enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Denver.
She is survived by her husband, Scott Ferguson, also of Fraser.
Ferguson’s death is the second tragedy involving an East Grand School District staff member this school year. Amy Gallagher, 26, a first-year English teacher at Middle Park High School, died as the result of a one-car accident on Nov. 28, 2007. She apparently lost control due to icy road conditions on State Highway 9 near the border of Grand and Summit counties.