2:00 PM PDT, July 1, 2021
A well-loved teacher hiking with her husband along the Franklin Mountains in her hometown of El Paso died in a freak accident when she was swept away by floodwaters, officials said.
Christina Garcia-Mata, 39, was with her husband Gabriel on Monday when she got swept away by water and fell down a mountain around 4 p.m., the El Paso Times reported.
Her body was reportedly retrieved two hours later. An investigation by the El Paso Police Department ruled the death accidental, the El Paso Times reported.
“From what I understand there was just a river of water that came down the mountain and swept my little sister off a cliff,” said Garcia-Mata’s sister, Sarah Garcia, according to Fox affiliate KFOX14.
Her brother-in-law, Gabriel, she said, “was able to hold onto a tree and grab himself right before the cliff went out.”
Garcia told KFOX14 that her sister, who lives in Austin was visiting family in El Paso at the time of the tragedy, made that trip every year.
“She loved her home, Chuco town was her home,” said Garcia, explaining that “the mountains are a part of us… that is our culture.”
She said that her younger sister hiked across South and North America and when she learned that the incident happened in her hometown of El Paso, she told the news outlet, it “just doesn’t seem real.”
”Just a week ago I took a picture of her and her husband on top of the mountain that took her life,” Garcia said.
Garcia-Mata, who had a 7-year-old son named Jabril, was a teacher at Akins Early College High School for the last 15 years. In 2018, she was voted Akins Teacher of the Year, according to the student newspaper, the Akins Eagle Eye.
“Garcia-Mata, as many of us called her, was an integral part of the Akins ECHS community because she was an inspiring teacher, dedicated mentor, superb supporter to all as an Academy Coordinator, and an amazing friend to many of us, if not all,” Akins Principal Tina Salazar wrote in an email to the campus staff, the Eagle Eye reported. “Our school is a tight knit family, and I am asking that we embrace and support each other during this very difficult time. I love you all immensely and I am here for anything you need.”
Many of Garcia-Mata’s students expressed their grief over the loss of Garcia-Mata, who they said was not only a teacher but a truly special person who made an impact.
“Thank you for the best advice that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life,” Jose Luna-Espinoza, a student of Garcia-Mata’s for four years, said in a tweet, according to the El Paso Times. “Love you Mrs. Mata.”
Her GoFundMe page described her as “loving, genuine, humble, motivating, accepting, honest, and, kindest person they ever met.”
“Her smile would light up any room and could win anyone over. Christy had a way of making people feel her light and love upon meeting her. She had a love for all, her family most of all,” page organizers Nicholas Fernandez and Gina Martinez wrote. “Christy was a devoted mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend to so many, and her loss is devastating to all.”
As of Thursday, $31,552 had been raised, exceeding the page’s initial goal of $30,000.