A Texas mother was killed Monday when she was struck by a vehicle while trying to protect three children -- including two of her own -- on the first day of school, officials said.
Kharisma Ashlee James, who was an Iraq War veteran and a nurse, died in the tragic accident in the parking lot of Tippin Elementary School, El Paso Times reported. The 33-year-old was picking up her two children, ages 6 and 7, when a vehicle began accelerating toward them. James jumped in front of her two children and a 10-year-old, officials said.
"She was trying to get in front of the kids," El Paso Independent School District spokesman Gustavo Reveles said, according to the report.
A GoFundMe page was created to raise money for James’ children.
James was pronounced dead. The three children were also hit by the vehicle. El Paso Independent School District Police Chief Victor Araiza said Tuesday the children were in serious condition, but expected to survive.
Officials said the driver, 58-year-old Roger Hawking, was backing out of the parking lot when he accidentally hit the accelerator. They believe the driver, who was picking up his grandchildren, was “disoriented and confused” when the incident happened.
“We don’t know if the driver was having a medical issue. We just don’t know yet,” Araiza said.
The accident happened on the first day of the school year. Classes resumed Tuesday, with a makeshift memorial placed in the front of the building.
“It’s just unthinkable that on the first day of school that this is something the children will never forget,” Victoria Bruce, who knew James, told KFOX14 in an interview. "Walking into school, all of us, we don’t feel safe at a place. It shouldn’t have never happened.”
Before her death, James worked as an operating room/surgery nurse at Hospitals of Providence. The single mother served in the Army for eight years and had planned to stay there long term. But her plans changed when she became pregnant with her first child, according to a blog post on Women’s Fund of El Paso.
“I learned from a close friend that the woman that died was my friend, and she had passed away in protecting her children,” Bruce said. “The mom was a single mom who loved her babies. I hope the community comes around."