A 3-year-old girl's afternoon walk with her baby sitter took a tragic turn when she was hit by a pickup near her suburban Lake Worth home.|
Priscila Perez-Gaspar was walking on a sidewalk with her baby sitter on Kirk Road, just south of Lake Worth Road, when Steven W. Barnes, 56, of Lake Worth, lost control of his 2006 GMC Sierra and hit the child, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said. She was taken to St. Mary's Medical Center, where she died.
Barnes remained at the scene after the crash, but was not taken into custody, sheriff's spokeswoman Teri Barbera said. Investigators are trying to determine whether Barnes suffered a medical episode before the crash.
As shocked onlookers watched while deputies investigated the crash, a shoe, a downed street sign and trail of blood were among the tragic reminders of the day's event.
"I never thought I'd see something like that in my life," said Anthony Shepherd, 34, who was inside his apartment when he heard the crash and rushed to the girl's aid.
The crash occurred just a few blocks from the girl's home in the 4100 block of Kirk Road, directly across the street from a Salvation Army facility.
"I open my front door and saw this woman screaming," Shepherd said. "I got halfway around the corner and I saw that the little girl (had been hit by the truck)."
Shepherd immediately called 911 and then tried to comfort the girl.
"I ran back into my house," he said. "I got a towel. I wrapped her head in the towel and I sat there and prayed with her."
The girl's mother arrived at the scene moments later. Shepherd drove the woman to the hospital, holding her hand and trying to console her, as paramedics rushed the child to St. Mary's.
"I have three sons myself, so this really messed me up," Shepherd said. "It just really threw me for a loop."
According to a sheriff's report, Barnes was traveling south on Kirk Road when he lost control of his Sierra and swerved east across the roadway. The truck drove through a residential parking lot, hitting the girl and a parked car before continuing through shrubs, a fence and second residential parking lot before coming to a stop.
One man, who did not want to give his name, said that he is a friend of Barnes. The man said that Barnes has a history of medical complications and may have blacked out behind the wheel.
"He'd be the first one to help anybody," the man said. "It was a freak accident. My heart goes out to that little girl."
"That's very sad to hear it was a young child," said Luz Cisneros, a West Palm Beach resident. "I'm not in (their) shoes, but I do feel the pain. That's why, it doesn't matter, 24/7 I want my kid. He's got to be right next me no matter what I'm doing."
Published in The Palm Beach Post from Sept. 25 to Oct. 24, 2013