Car crash kills USF dean's wife, injures student 

The wife of the dean of the University of San Francisco School of Education was killed Thursday and a man critically injured when they were pinned against a building in a car crash that apparently started with a U-turn against the blinding afternoon sun.

A university spokesman said the female victim was Paula Gmelch, the wife of Walter Gmelch, dean of USF’s School of Education since August 2000.

"During this time of profound loss, our hearts go out to Walt and his family," said Gary McDonald, director of media relations, in a written statement. "For those of us who knew Paula, she was fresh, energetic and very much a part of campus life, attending many athletic events and university functions."

The two victims were at the corner of Turk Street and Chabot Terrace, in front of the university’s Lone Mountain Campus, when a man heading west on Turk Street in a black Cadillac Escalade made a U-turn at about 2:50 p.m., police reported.

As he completed the turn, a second driver heading east in a black Nissan Pathfinder swerved to avoid colliding with the Esclade but instead clipped the sport utility vehicle, San Francisco police Sgt. Steve Mannina said. The Pathfinder jumped the curb and ran into a corner residential building, pinning the woman against the wall and the man underneath the vehicle, Mannina said.

The man attempted to jump out of the way but was pinned at the leg, according to witnesses at the scene.

Both were taken to San Francisco General Hospital; she was pronounced dead and he was suffering from life-threatening injuries.

"As far as I know, no one is being [criminally] charged right now," Mannina said. "But we don’t forfeit the right to file criminal charges later."

Witnesses said the male victim was a student at the university, as were the two drivers, neither of whom were hurt.

A man who said he lived on the corner said the intersection is dangerous because Turk Street slopes to the east of Chabot Terrace, making it hard to see oncoming traffic from either direction.

One of the drivers, a young man, was sitting in the back of a patrol car as police investigated the scene.

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