By Kevin Deutsch
A Lauderhill mother was struck by a vehicle and killed while taking photos of wildlife in west Broward, authorities and her family said.
Jennifer McGinnis, a beloved preschool teacher with family roots in Coral Springs, was killed on June 19 when a 2017 Subaru WRX struck her in the Holey Land Wildlife Management Area at about 8:30 p.m.
Broward Sheriff’s Office detectives said the Subaru’s driver, Jonathan Pollow, 33, of Miami, was passing alongside a stopped Dodge Ram pickup when a pedestrian — identified by family members as McGinnis — stepped out from behind the Ram and into Pollow’s path.
McGinnis was thrown into a swale along the south side of the roadway. Pollow stopped and attempted to contact emergency services, according to BSO. But due to the isolated location of the crash, he could not get cellphone service.
Pollow drove eastbound for about a mile while an occupant in his vehicle called Palm Beach County Fire Rescue. Pollow then returned to the scene and began CPR, deputies said. Authorities arrived and pronounced McGinnis dead.
Due to the crash occurring on the Broward County side of the Holey Land Wildlife Management Area, Palm Beach County deputies asked BSO to respond, deputies said.
BSO traffic homicide investigators said neither excessive speed nor mechanical malfunction is considered contributing factor in the crash.
McGinnis’ family and friends posted a host of moving tributes to her on Facebook in the days after the accident.
“Jennifer, you are the best thing to ever happen in my life,” wrote her husband, Jake McGinnis. “You’ve blessed me with two perfect children and shown me what true love really is. You are loved by so many…the world is a much better place because you were in it. Thank you for picking me as your husband.”
Jennifer’s mother, Donna Van Der Eems, of Coral Springs, said she was killed while taking animal photos in the wildlife preserve.
“It was our sanctuary of peace and beauty of all creatures and plants big and small,” wrote Van Der Eems. “We shared many camping trips and day trips and tons of memories out there. She has a beautiful soul inside and out and was always rescuing animals and being the best person she could be each day.”
McGinnis taught preschool at Our Savior Lutheran Church and School in Plantation for three years beginning in 2017, said Linda Root, the school’s principal.
More recently, McGinnis was a substitute at the school while focusing on work at her husband’s muffler business.
“She was one of the most creative, dedicated, friendly, compassionate educators I’ve ever met,” said Root. “She cared about the underdog….she connected with everyone.”
Root recalled McGinnis’ love of mermaids and how she had dressed in full costume as one – her ocean-dwelling “alter ego” – for a church parade. An animal lover and rescuer, McGinnis helped care for the turtles and other creatures that made the grounds around the church their home.
“She was someone who made every day better,” recalled Root. “Every time you thought you were going to do something for Jenn, she was already thinking ahead and doing something for you.”
A celebration of life for McGinnis will be held July 10 at 1 p.m. at Our Savior Lutheran Church, 8001 NW 5th St., Plantation.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.