An incident that left a driver dead when her vehicle was struck by a person who had plunged from an Interstate 66 overpass Saturday is being investigated as an attempted suicide, Virginia State Police said Sunday.
Police said a 12-year-old boy jumped from the Cedar Lane overpass and landed on an SUV being driven by 22-year-old Marisa W. Harris, of Olney, Md., who died on the scene. The boy was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries, police said.
The incident occurred about 4:20 p.m. Saturday, as a 2005 Ford Escape was traveling eastbound on I-66 near the Nutley Street exit.
A 23-year-old passenger in the SUV grabbed the steering wheel and maneuvered the vehicle off the interstate, according to authorities, stopping against a concrete barrier on the road's left shoulder.
Harris was killed by the impact of the fall, according to Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for Virginia State Police. The boy was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he is being treated for life-threatening injuries, police said. The passenger was not injured.
Police continued to investigate the incident Sunday.
Harris, who lived in Arlington, was pursuing her master's degree in clinical counseling at Marymount University, her parents said Sunday from Olney. She had a passion for working with children with severe behavioral problems, they said.
"She was caring — I mean she had an absolute love for children," Harris's mother, Leigh Miller said.
Harris was a high-achieving student, graduating summa cum laude from Towson University, where she completed her undergraduate degree, Miller said.
Given her work with children, the circumstances of her death — after a suicide attempt by a 12-year-old — were not lost on the family.
"That's the irony that we're at looking at right now," Patrick Harris said.
Harris's father described her as outgoing and well-traveled. She had an affinity for the outdoors and loved hiking, he said.
"She was fearless, she was absolutely fearless," he said. "She was loved by her friends, she was dearly loved by her family, she was admired by her peers, she was just a shining star."
And her professional interest ran in the family: Harris's grandfather is also a psychologist, and her father said she "comes from a long line of psychologists."
"She was — she was awesome," her mother said. "I miss her so much."