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Los Banos teacher one of two people killed in Ingomar Grade crash

Louise Kaster, 54, of Newman, was in her first year of teaching in Los Banos. She died Monday in a two-car crash outside town.
Louise Kaster, 54, of Newman, was in her first year of teaching in Los Banos. She died Monday in a two-car crash outside town. Los Banos Enterprise file

One of the two people killed in a crash outside Los Banos was a sixth-grade teacher at Lorena Falasco Elementary School, Los Banos Unified School District officials confirmed.

Authorities on Tuesday released the names of the two people killed in the head-on collision.

Teacher Louise Kaster, 54, of Newman and Esteban Arellano, 32, of Los Banos died about 7 a.m. Monday on Ingomar Grade, near the Ingomar Packing Plant, the California Highway Patrol confirmed.

Efforts Tuesday to reach Arellano’s family were unsuccessful.

Kaster was a sixth-grade teacher at Lorena Falasco Elementary, district officials said.

CHP Officer Dean Emehiser confirmed the identities of both people in an interview Tuesday with the Merced Sun-Star.

Investigators said Arellano was driving a 1993 Nissan Sentra at an undetermined “high rate of speed” north on Ingomar Grade when he apparently lost control on a curve in the roadway and wheeled into the southbound lane. His car struck a 2012 Ford Focus driven by Kaster.

Both drivers were alone in their vehicles.

Neither drugs nor alcohol appear to have been factors in the crash, the CHP said in a news release.

Kaster was previously an instructional assistant in another district and continued her education at California State University, Stanislaus, as a nontraditional student before starting her new career at Lorena Falasco, Principal Jane Brittell said.

She was nearing the end of her first year as a teacher.

“It’s been a very tough couple of days here,” Brittell said Tuesday, describing Kaster as a “positive and fantastic teacher who loved her students and was well loved and liked.”

Students were notified Tuesday morning, Brittell said. Grief counselors were and will continue to be available.

In addition to planning a balloon release in Kaster’s honor Thursday, staff and students helped support each other Tuesday, Brittell said. Students from first through fifth grades wrote letters of support to Kaster’s students.

Students also wrote to Kaster’s family. The school plans to build a school garden formally dedicated to Kaster later in this year.

Another popular Los Banos teacher died on the same road nearly a year ago. Michael Bartlett was killed April 28, 2015, in a two-car crash on Ingomar Grade, west of Sylvester Road. Bartlett, 33, led the math department at Los Banos High School.

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