San Diego

Mother Mourns Future Zookeeper Daughter Killed by SUV in Fallbrook

The mother of a girl killed by an SUV Friday in Fallbrook shared stories of her child's unique charm and infectious attitude.

Depending on the day, 8-year-old Cristina Isabel Garcia wanted to be either an artist or a zookeeper when she grew up.

If she followed that latter, it was a sure thing she'd handle cheetahs, her mother said.

"Cheetahs were her thing," Jennifer Santiago Chavez told NBC 7 Monday.

And, according to mom, Cristina had the energy to keep up with the ultra-fast cats.

"She could be out all day playing and still come home and continue playing," Santiago Chavez said. "Her energy never stopped."

Cristina was walking with three other family members across an entrance to a parking lot along Herald Lane near East Fallbrook Street at around 6:30 p.m. Friday when she was hit by an SUV entering the lot.

Her family still can't believe how the driver didn't see her.

She was transported to Rady Children's Hospital but died on the way there, CHP Officer Mark Latulippe said.

Her mother spent the weekend trying to figure out how she'll fill the void left by her sweet little girl who she said loved ice cream, going to church, playing at the park with her aunt and spending all day with her grandma.

"She was always laughing. Her laugh was so contagious that you knew she was in the house," Santiago Chavez said. "Now it just seems like it's empty. It's missing her."

Generous despite her tender age, Cristina would always ask if anyone wanted to share, her mother said. 

"She loved ice cream and would make herself one and she'd be like, 'Do you want one?' or 'What flavor?' Or we would go to the store and she'd say 'Let's get this for Michael (her younger cousin),'" Santiago Chavez said.

More than ice cream or playing, though, Santiago Chavez says Cristina was excited about her pending promotion to big sister.

"She was so excited," her mom said. "For a long time, she was like. 'Why don't you adopt so I can have 13 brothers and sisters?' I'm like that's a lot of kids."

Cristina's family is working to put together a celebration of life Saturday at Calvary Chapel Church in Fallbrook.

The driver of the SUV, a 58-year-old woman, stayed at the scene following the collision. CHP is still investigating and has not determined if the driver will face charges.

Alcohol and drug use are not considered to be factors in this collision, CHP said.

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