Staff and students at Mountain Shadows Education Center in Apache Junction were shocked and saddened to hear about the death of a special education teacher who was struck and killed as he was riding his motor scooter to school on Wednesday.
The man, who was identified as Sat Guru Singh Khalsa, 61, had collided with another vehicle that turned in front of him. Then, as he was being helped by a bystander, the teacher and the bystander were struck by a second vehicle. Khalsa died at the scene.
Khalsa was a special education teacher at Mountain Shadows Education Center, a school in the Apache Junction Unified School District’s alternative education program, since July 2005, according to Brian Killgore, district spokesman. He taught language arts and reading to elementary students, and was very well-liked, Killgore said.
Khalsa was described by Kurt Decke, the school’s director, as a popular and innovative teacher who was close to his students.
“He was a fantastic teacher,” Decke said. “When we hired him, we couldn’t have asked for anyone better than him. He did a wonderful job. He’s going to be missed a lot.”
Decke said Khalsa implemented the Orton-Gillingham Method at the school, a method used to teach reading that involves fast repetition and tapping sounds on desks.
“He was creative in a lot of ways,” Decke said.
Khalsa’s former students attending Apache Junction High School also were coming into Mountain Shadows on Wednesday morning to inquire about the incident.
“The kids are upset,” Decke said. “This has bothered them a lot.”
Counselors were on hand at the school to help students and staff with the grieving process, and letters are being sent to parents of the students to inform them of the incident.
To honor Khalsa, students released balloons in the schoolyard, made signs that said, “We’ll Miss You!” and drew pictures of him.
In a statement issued by the district, Superintendent Chad Wilson said, “This is a great loss to the Apache Junction Unfieid School District family and to the community as a whole. Sat was well-known and well-liked across the district, and regarded as an innovative and energetic instructor who touched the lives of his students and co-workers alike. Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.”
Khalsa was riding his motor scooter on Broadway Avenue about 6:30 a.m. when he fell off and into the roadway after he struck a vehicle that turned onto Broadway from Meridian in front of him. The scooter was traveling through the green light, according to Mark Cichocki, a spokesman for the Rural Metro Fire Department.
Khalsa was wearing a helmet.
Decke said he first learned about the crash about 6:45 after Khalsa’s wife called him to tell him that her husband had been in an accident on her way to the scene. After a staff member of the school who saw the crash scene on television news, called Decke about 7:30 a.m. and asked whether Khalsa was at the school, Decke said he became concerned and learned of his death after calling police.
Khalsa, who had previously taught in New Mexico, also is survived by a son who is a doctor in California, Decke said.
Neither driver appeared to be impaired, according to Apache Junction police Capt. Arnold Freeman.
Gene Burns of Mesa, who turned in front of Khalsa, was cited for failure to yield right of way, Freeman said.
Matthew Crane, 27, of Mesa, who was driving a small Chevy Blazer SUV, struck Khalsa and the bystander, according to Freeman. He said the Pinal County Attorney’s Office will recommend any charges against him after the case is reviewed.
Khalsa’s death was a result of the secondary crash, Cichocki said.
The bystander, Joseph Sammarzo, 27 — who saw the collision and stopped to help — was taken to Banner Baywood Medical Center with nonlife-threatening injuries, treated and released, Freeman said.
“This was a tragic accident,” Cichocki said. “Obviously, be safe and slow down around accident scenes.”