BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — After visiting her brother in Seattle, RoseMary Brooks decided on a huge undertaking — driving across the country back to her home in Louisiana.
She started on Friday evening. By the following afternoon, Brooks had veered off course. She called family and pulled over at a gas station in Selma, Calif., to look up her granddaughter’s address in Los Angeles, where she planned to regroup.
But she continued to experience difficulty on her way to L.A., running out of gas at about 5:40 p.m. She pulled over on Interstate 5, south of Highway 166.
Her granddaughter told Brooks to stay put as she left to meet her. She also alerted AAA and authorities to be on the lookout for her grandmother.
An hour later, Brooks was dead.
The 69-year-old was struck and killed by a Dodge Ram after getting out of her car, according to the California Highway Patrol. It’s unclear why she left the vehicle.
The CHP says it appeared she was walking in traffic lanes, but Brooks’ son, James Lea, 50, said it’s the family’s belief the pickup hit her as soon as she got out of her car. He said there isn’t much of a shoulder in the area where she stopped and she was next to the roadway.
Upon hearing of his mother’s difficulties earlier in the day, Lea made plans to travel from his home in Portland to L.A. to join Brooks on the cross-country drive. He had told her not to attempt the trip on her own, but she was adamant she could do it.
“I’m surprised she got as far as she did,” Lea said. “She never drove that far on her own.”
The granddaughter, Shameeka Gultry, 32, said Brooks didn’t seem panicked when she talked to her despite being stuck on the side of the road. She continued talking with Brooks until Brooks’ phone died.
As she approached the location her grandmother had given her, Gultry saw multiple vehicles with flashing lights then noticed a Nissan Altima by the roadway — the same car Brooks drove. She feared the worst. Emergency responders confirmed Brooks had died.
Lea said his mother was born in Louisiana, raised in Seattle and had spent the past 20 years back in Louisiana. She recently planned to move to Seattle, but had conflicting feelings about leaving her longtime home, according to her son.
Since her death, dozens of people have contacted him from Louisiana to express their condolences, Lea said. He hadn’t realized his mother had so many friends.
The family is doing its best to cope with her death.
“She was a great mother, grandmother and great-grandmother,” Lea said. “She was a great woman.”