Tribune Staff Writer
Sisters, ages 4 and 6, are listed in critical condition after car hits them.
MISHAWAKA — Two young girls, sisters, were in critical condition late Thursday after being run down earlier in the evening while crossing the street arm-in-arm after playing with friends.
The driver reportedly attempted to flee, but was stopped at gunpoint by a man who witnessed the accident.
According to witnesses, the two girls, ages 4 and 6, were crossing 11th Street at Dodge Street about 7:18 p.m. when a man traveling west on 11th in a blue Chevrolet Lumina struck both of them at about 40 mph.
No sooner had they crossed the street than I heard tires lock up and, 'Boom! Boom!,'" said Alan Knepp, who was standing just up the street when the girls were hit.
Knepp said the younger girl passed quickly beneath the vehicle, but her older sister rode the hood for several seconds before falling beneath the front end and then under both driver's side tires.
The girls behind him, the driver then hit the gas, witnesses said, but stopped when Knepp, who was legally carrying a gun, jumped in front of the vehicle and trained his weapon on it.
Approached by Knepp, the driver reportedly said the girls had jumped out in front of him. He then handed his keys to Knepp and stood silently next to his vehicle until police arrived.
The girls, meanwhile, lay nearly lifeless in the road, witnesses said. The younger one initially was not breathing, and the older one's limbs and neck were badly twisted.
Fetched by a neighbor, the girls' mother arrived moments later and reportedly passed out at the sight of her daughters' motionless bodies.
Both girls were rushed by ambulance to Memorial Hospital in South Bend with critical injuries, Mishawaka police Capt. Pasquale Rulli said. One was immediately admitted into surgery, he said, and the other flown to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
Their names have not yet been released, but several witnesses said they both attended Emmons Elementary School.
Most of 11th Street between Dodge and Union streets was taped off following the accident and the county's Fatal Alcohol Crash Team was called in to investigate.
The Chevrolet Lumina involved in the crash remained parked about a half block west of where the girls were hit. At various distances behind it, four small shoes, all pink, were lying on the asphalt.
Several witnesses said the girls, who were returning home after playing with friends, were halfway across the street when they were hit, not jumping into it, as the driver contended.
"For him to say them babies jumped out in front of him, he's a damn liar. He's a damn liar," said an emotional Danella Bishop, Knepp's wife.
"Those two little girls had their arms locked around one another and looked both ways before they crossed," said Kelly Fletcher, a friend of Bishop.
Fletcher said if not for Knepp, the driver would have fled.
"He would have kept on going, dragging that little girl under his car," she said.
The driver was taken to the police station for questioning and then released, Rulli said, and alcohol did not appear to be a factor in the crash.
The driver's name has not been released.
ETA: The four-year-old died. No mention of what will happen to the driver. :(