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Girl pushes other child to safety before being hit by runaway car

LAKESIDE, Calif. -- A 10-year-old girl was fatally struck by a runaway vehicle on a Lakeside-area driveway while pushing a second child out of its path, authorities said Tuesday.

The girl was identified by family members as Kiera Larsen.

It was not immediately clear how the 1999 Mercedes-Benz that struck her began rolling in reverse down a sloping dirt driveway off Olde Highway 80 near Los Coches Road shortly after 5 p.m. Monday, according to the California Highway Patrol. But local news reports indicated the vehicle may have been put in motion by another child.

Paramedics took Kiera to Sharp Grossmont Hospital, where she later died, Pearlstein said.

“A child died heroically, I mean if you think about it, she sacrificed herself for another small child," CHP Officer Kevin Pearlstein said. “We’re going to do an inspection on the vehicle, find out why this happened, find out if there was some sort of malfunction on the vehicle and go from there.”

“She is truly a hero. She will forever be my kids’ guardian angel,” said Alissa Jenkins, mother of one-year-old Adison and two-year-old Emma, the two girls Kiera saved.

Jenkins and her fiancé Jonathan Gusich say they will never be able to repay Kiera for her selfless act.

“She saved both my daughters' lives,” Jenkins said. “These are my two kids that I have and both of them could’ve been gone in an instant and she stepped in and took over and did what she knows best to do -- and that’s to protect those around her.”

"She was a big sister to them. She was always looking out for them and apparently she gave her life for my kids,” Gusich said. “I don’t know how to repay them, repay her. She must have been the guardian angel yesterday and they’re here because of her.”

Blossom Valley Elementary, which Kiera attended, will continue to provide counselors to students and staff.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Kiera’s family to assist with expenses.

Kiera was the third child of around the same age killed in crashes around San Diego County this week.

An 11-year-old Anaheim girl was killed in a fiery chain-reaction crash on Interstate 8 in Pine Valley Sunday night. Authorities said Rochelle Hernandez was a backseat passenger in her aunt's Lexus sedan when it was struck from behind by a speeding Toyota Camry at the Border Patrol checkpoint near Buckman Springs Road. The Lexus then struck the back of a Honda Pilot and burst into flames.

Rochelle could not be pulled out of the wreckage of the car in time and died at the scene, authorities said.

About 30 minutes later, an 11-year-old San Bernardino County boy was killed in a crash on Interstate 15 near Gopher Canyon Road. His name has yet to be made public, but authorities said he was a resident of Crestline.

Three other people involved in that crash were injured when the Chevrolet Trailblazer they were riding in was struck from behind by a Dodge Challenger, authorities said. The SUV rolled over several times, and the boy was ejected from the back seat, according to the CHP.