Four girls were struck by a hit-and-run driver who got out of the car and checked who had been hit with a flashlight and still took off without calling the authorities.
Two of the girls were in wheelchairs being pushed by the other two. Three of the four girls, aged 11, 12, and 13, died. The fourth, 14-year-old Natalie Cole, was taken to hospital in critical condition.
“Her leg was amputated in the accident, all her other limbs are shattered and her liver is bleeding, her kidneys are struggling,” Natalie’s mother Sherrie Orndorff told NBC Los Angeles.
The girls were hit by a white 2002 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck on Saturday. Willow Sanchez, 11, Daytona Bronas, 12, and Sandra Mizer, 13, were killed after being struck as they walked along Camp Rock Road in Lucerne Valley east of Los Angeles.
Because of their disabilities, Natalie and Daytona were using wheelchairs.
“My baby’s gone,” Sandra’s grandmother Tammy Midkiff told NBC Los Angeles. “I can’t have her no more.”
California Highway Patrol said a driver and passenger, both still unknown, drifted onto the shoulder of the road where the girls were walking.
Ms Orndoff, who’s also Willow’s older sister, said the girls had been at her house before deciding to go for a walk around 10pm.
“My sister was a beautiful bright girl who overcame so much already,” she told NBC. “I don’t know what to do without my baby sister.”
Witnesses told family members that the driver and passenger used a flashlight to see who they had hit after the collision, before taking off on foot without calling 911.
“You’re a coward. You killed three kids, you took their lives,” said Christine Cordova, aunt to one of the girls, “You didn’t just take them, you hurt everybody.”
“You get to go home with your family, and ours will never come back,” Ms Cordova added.
“You got out of your vehicle, looked at those dead and dying girls on the ground, and you ran,” she said of the suspects who left their truck behind.
When San Bernardino County firefighters arrived at the scene, the suspects had fled and the girls were found on different sides of the road.
Writing on Facebook, Ms Cordova asked the suspects to turn themselves in. “This is the best apology you could ever give to us, the family,” she wrote. “I know all families say their child was good, but my niece truly was. She was only 13 and what was supposed to be a fun night at her friends, ended in heartbreak.”
“She just graduated from the core cadet and we just paid for her Marine field trip yesterday that she now won’t be attending. Her goal was to join the Marines right out of [high school] and become something.
“She loved everyone and was outgoing and so happy despite her hard childhood. She was my baby, I was there when she was born, I named her. She hated bullies and loved younger kids like a big sister.”
Las Virgenes Unified School District Superintendent Peter Livingston told CBS Los Angeles: “When you have something like this happen, and people run away from little girls dying in the middle of the road on a night, it’s not right.”
He added that it “absolutely disgusts me that these people are out there, who I would not even call human beings, running around here”.
“Things are getting hard friends. Natalie brother’s birthday is tomorrow and her mom is a mess. Torn between her love for her kids,” the aunt of Willow and Natalie, Robbin Napier-Florence, wrote on Facebook. “Please know that Natalie was in a wheelchair at the time of this accident and used her hands to navigate it. Now with the possible loss of her hands and leg, she will need special care and a special chair.”
California Highway Patrol is asking anyone with information that could help the investigation to contact Officer L McAllister at the Victorville CHP Area office at (760) 241-1186.