A 10-year-old California girl died while saving two toddlers from a runaway vehicle, according to officials.
Kiera Larsen, the girl, instinctively pushed two babies, ages 1 and 2, away from the SUV, police in Lakeside said. The car started rolling while the three were playing in the yard.
The vehicle struck the 10-year-old and pushed her through a fence, KGTV reported. She was taken to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
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The vehicle began rolling in reverse down a dirt driveway off Olde Highway 80 near Los Coches Road after 5 p.m. on Monday, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) told KGTV. Neighbors said children were playing in the yard when the car rolled.
Officials didn’t explain why the SUV, a 1999 Mercedes-Benz, started rolling in reverse down the driveway.
“She is truly a hero. She will forever be my kids’ guardian angel,” said Alissa Jenkins, who is the mother of one-year-old Adison and two-year-old Emma, the girls Kiera had saved.
Jenkins added: “She saved both my daughters’ lives. These are my two kids that I have and both of them could’ve been gone in an instant and she stepped in and took over and did what she knows best to do—and that’s to protect those around her.”
Jenkins and fiance Jonathan Gusich said they’ll never be able to repay her.
“She was a big sister to them. She was always looking out for them and apparently she gave her life for my kids,” Gusich told FOX5. “I don’t know how to repay them, repay her. She must have been the guardian angel yesterday and they’re here because of her.”
A GoFundMe account was set up for Kiera’s family, and more than $39,000 has been raised as of Thursday afternoon. “Please donate any amount that you can for funeral expenses. Every dollar helps,” it stated.
A CHP officer on the scene also described her as a hero.
“A child died heroically, I mean if you think about it, she sacrificed herself for another small child,” CHP Officer Kevin Pearlstein told FOX5.
He added that police are “going to do an inspection on the vehicle, find out why this happened, find out if there was some sort of malfunction on the vehicle and go from there.”