A 71-year-old South Portland woman was walking home from Christmas Eve Mass when she was struck by a car and killed Sunday.

Paula McAuliffe was about a block from her house and crossing Highland Avenue between Cottage Road and Providence Avenue when she was struck. She was not in a crosswalk, South Portland Police Chief Dan Ahern said Tuesday.

The crash was reported shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday. McAuliffe was taken by ambulance to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where she died from her injuries, according to police.

The crash happened near Red’s Dairy Freeze and Otto Pizza. Ahern said it is not an area where pedestrians have been hit in the past, although neighbors say fender benders and near collisions are not unusual in the nearby Cottage Road intersection.

According to city property records, McAuliffe and her husband have owned a house on Highland Avenue near where she was struck since 1995.

McAuliffe’s husband, John McAuliffe, described his wife as a “real dynamic” person but said he was too “shell shocked” to talk to a reporter in depth Tuesday.


McAuliffe attended a church service at Holy Cross Church shortly before the crash. Her husband is a deacon at St. John Paul II Parish in Portland.

“I am heartbroken over the tragic death of Paula McAuliffe, wife of Deacon John McAuliffe, following Christmas Eve Mass,” the Rev. Jack Dickinson, pastor of St. John Paul II Parish, said in a statement Tuesday. “The parish clergy and staff are here to support the McAuliffe family in their time of need. I ask all to pray for the repose of Paula’s soul, and the consolation of her family.”

McAuliffe worked at WGME from the 1970s until her retirement in 2017, the television station reported. She worked behind the scenes and in the studio.

South Portland police continue to investigate the crash and have not released the driver’s identity. Police say the driver is cooperating with investigators and that they don’t believe the driver was at fault.

“This would be a tragic event any day, but especially on Christmas Eve,” said Ahern in a written statement. “We are thinking about and wishing for peace for all those involved, especially Ms. McAuliffe’s family and friends.”

Several neighbors said Tuesday that they hadn’t seen the crash firsthand but were used to seeing fender benders or near-misses at the intersection. They said a confusing layout and rapid stop light changes especially cause problems for drivers headed west from Willard Beach, who sometimes fail to see cars pulling out from the parking lot of Otto pizza.

“It’s a madhouse,” said Raymond Killinger, who said McAuliffe was struck near Otto, across the street from his home. “I hear numerous car horns most every day.”

Staff Writer John Terhune contributed to this story.

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