A Texas mother of six died after her 11-year-old daughter accidentally drove the family SUV over her in front of her other children, exposing the siblings to trauma that experts said will be difficult for them to survive.
"This is something that is going to be very difficult for them to recover from," Kathrine Daniels, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Columbia Heights, Minn., said. "Recovering isn't even the right word. I definitely think the quicker they can get into family therapy, the better."
The family had arrived around 7 p.m. Wednesday at a for-sale home they were planning to tour in Jacinto City, Texas. The mother wanted to pull the vehicle closer to the front of the driveway, according to ABC's affiliate ABC13-KTRK in Houston.
Instead of moving the car herself, however, she reportedly asked her daughter to get into the driver's seat while the car was running and move closer to the house.
The woman had planned to tell her daughter when she should brake. But the girl stepped on the accelerator by mistake, striking and killing her mother, ABC13 reported.
"That's just something that shouldn't have been done," Jacinto City police Chief Joe Ayala told ABC13."She should have gotten into the vehicle and done that herself, instead of instructing a child."
Police declined to release the family's name.
The deadly accident might have lifelong effects on the children who witnessed it, not to mention the 11-year-old, therapist Daniels said.
"Children can only have so much capacity to process and understand things," she said. "And depending on their developmental age, they process things differently.
"Oftentimes, there's so much for them to take in, it's so overwhelming for them. They can have problems just with general functioning."
Lawrence Balter, professor emeritus at New York University said, "The important point is that it isn't just the very instance of a parent dying, but it's the fact that the absence of the parent at important milestones in a child's life."
There have been a number of cases recently of parents putting their children behind the wheel when they are too young to get a license. Shawn Weimer, 39, pleaded guilty in December to child abuse charges, for instance, after he used his 9-year-old-daughter as his designated driver in Brownstone Township, Mich.
The legal driving age in Texas is 16, but teens as young as 14 can learn to drive through a state-approved, parent-taught, drivers' education course.