PAGELAND — Eight-year-old Nelly Herrera had recently moved to Chesterfield County with her family from Memphis, Tennessee.
Police said her parents were enrolling her older sibling at Pageland Elementary School just after 9 a.m. Tuesday when they sent Nelly back to their car across the street at their home.
“They had left some paperwork in the car and sent their 8-year-old out to retrieve some papers from the car,” Chesterfield County School District Superintendent Harrison Goodwin said. “She was trying to cross the street when she was struck.”
The red Ford Explorer that struck the child was parked in the middle of S.C. 9 for nearly four hours while police investigated.
Pageland Police Chief Larry Brown said the driver of the SUV was devastated.
“She’s stating that the child came out of nowhere. She didn’t see the child until the child got in front of her vehicle,” Brown said.
The driver, a woman from Bennettsville, was also taken to the hospital for shock and stress, officials said.
Moments after the accident, the school district sent out an email alert to parents.
Novalee Zuniga is one parent who got the message.
“It said that a child had been struck in front of the school, with their family member, but it did not involve anyone at the school,” she said.
Zuniga said she’s hurting for both families.
“I feel for the parents. I couldn’t imagine going through anything like this. I’ll just be praying for them,” she said.
Pageland police, along with an S.C. Highway Patrol investigative team, planned to be back at the school Wednesday to continue mapping and studying the scene.
They took the SUV to police headquarters to use its computer to look into speed, braking and other information.
School officials said no schoolchildren witnessed the accident because it happened after classes had started. Grief counselors were on hand throughout the day.
“Two families’ lives have been changed forever,” Goodwin said.
The Pageland community has already come together for the family. A police officer told WSOC Channel 9 that Baumgartner Funeral Home, across the street from the school, lowered the price of a funeral service for the Herrera family, and churches and others have already raised most of the money to pay for it.
As of late Tuesday, no charges had been filed in the wreck.
Greg Suskin covers York, Chester, Lancaster and Chesterfield counties for WSOC-TV Channel 9. His story is reprinted here with permission.