A 5-year-old autistic girl was struck and killed late Friday near her Laguna Niguel home by a sport utility vehicle that left the scene, authorities said.
"We're wondering why the driver didn't stop," said Orange County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Doan. "I don't know if it's a case of the driver not knowing that he or she struck a child. We won't know until we question the driver."
The girl, Mya Richard, died hours afterward at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo. An autopsy completed Saturday revealed that Mya died of blunt-force trauma, coroner's officials said. Authorities said Mya, wearing only a diaper, slipped out of the house through a rear "doggy door" about 8:20 p.m. Friday.
She managed to climb over a 2-foot block wall, push open a wooden gate and walk down a steep, 100-foot slope covered with ice plant and dried shrubs.
The girl crossed three lanes of Crown Valley Parkway. Several motorists and a passing animal control officer stopped their cars in the eastbound lanes as the girl stood in the grassy center island near Moulton Parkway.
"The officer turned on all her flashers and tried to talk to the girl and keep her in the center median," Doan said.
But Mya put her hands over her ears, stepped into westbound traffic and was hit by the white sport utility vehicle and thrown about 50 feet into the opposing lanes, Doan said.
"Because she is autistic, I'm certain when she came down the hill, she didn't know the danger and her surroundings," said grandfather Dennis Richard. He arrived early Saturday from his home in Las Vegas to be with the family. "She's never wandered out of sight. It's just devastating."
The girl's mother had gone to run an errand and left Mya and her 7-year-old brother, Jeremy, with the live-in caretaker, who is specially trained in working with autistic children.
A few minutes later, the sitter heard sirens and looked out a back window, where she spotted Mya lying in the street, surrounded by police cars. The animal control officer and one of the motorists--a trauma surgeon--were giving the girl CPR.
"Mya was their life," Dennis Richard said, referring to parents Donny and Judy Richard.