Mom in SUV strikes, injures five kids playing in driveway in Pr. George’s; 8-year-old dies

An 8-year-old girl was killed and four other children were injured Thursday night when a woman accidentally backed her sport-utility vehicle into them while they were playing in the driveway of her Lewisdale home, Prince George’s County police said.

Natalie Hernandez-Cruz, daughter of the driver, has died, police said Friday. Her mother, Marianable Cruz-Lopez, 33, was a renter in the home, police said.

Police spokeswoman Julie Parker said no charges have been filed and it appears the incident was “simply a devastating accident.”

Police on Friday said an 11-year-old boy was in serious condition. Three other children, a boy who is about to turn 2, a 6-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl suffered minor injuries, police said, and all remain hospitalized. The youngest boy is Cruz-Lopez’s son, police said. The relationship of the other children to the driver was unclear.


Natalie Hernandez-Cruz (Prince George's County schools)

The accident happened about 8:45 p.m. Thursday in the driveway of a house in the 2200 block of Hannon Street, said Lt. David Lloyd, a patrol shift commander. Cruz-Lopez was backing up in the driveway when she accidentally hit the gas and struck the children, who were playing behind the Ford Expedition, police said.

The Expedition then “continued and lodged into the garage that is in the rear of the house,” Lloyd said. “It was a chaotic scene when we arrived.”

Maximono Mendez, a tenant in the home, said through a translator that he was outside when the SUV crashed into the garage. He said Cruz-Lopez jumped from her car.

“She heard her kids scream and she ran out of the car and grabbed her 2-year-old, but she didn’t notice her 8-year-old was still stuck,” Mendez said.

Patricia Taitt, 50, a neighbor, said she was in her backyard when she heard a loud boom and ran across the street to the modest two-story brick house. She heard screams and saw adults trying to raise the smashed garage door and pull children from the rubble.

Cruz-Lopez, screaming, was clutching the youngest child. “The mother was holding on to the baby so tight and screaming and hysterical,” Taitt said.

“It’s just a horrific accident,” Taitt said she remembers thinking to herself.

Taitt said a friend had started performing CPR on Natalie, who someone had brought to the grass, and then a police officer who arrived took over. When someone brought the 11-year-boy to the lawn, Taitt began to perform CPR on him, she said.

“He got a pulse and he started to move,” she said. She said she noticed that other children, injured and bleeding, were being pulled from the garage.

Parker said Cruz-Lopez was moving out of the home, and police had been there less than an hour before the accident to respond to a landlord-tenant dispute. “The woman was upset but not out of control,” Parker said of Cruz-Lopez.

A former tenant and family friend said Cruz-Lopez was backing toward the garage because she planned to load some of her belongings into the SUV.

On Friday, a splotch of dried blood remained on the smashed garage door, beneath it a pile of bricks and rubble where witnesses said children were buried immediately after the crash. Further up the driveway, a stroller and a car seat sat next to a pile of wooden boards. Two children’s mountain bikes rested against a chain-link fence that surrounds the grassy backyard.

Elsy Flores-Romero, also a neighbor, said she has tried to imagine what Cruz-Lopez must be feeling.

“We can’t judge her, only God can,” Flores-Romero said. “I put myself in the mom’s shoes. Imagine you know you killed your own kid, that’s a horrible feeling to carry for your whole life.”

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
Clarence Williams is the night police reporter for The Washington Post and has spent the better part of 13 years standing next to crime scene tape, riding in police cars or waking officials in the middle of night to gather information about breaking news in and around Washington.
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