Police officers look for evidence in the hit-and-run death of a middle school… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)
A Brentwood middle school was enveloped in grief Friday after a 13-year-old girl was fatally injured when she was struck by two hit-and-run drivers as she walked to a school bus filled with classmates.
Julia Siegler, an eighth-grader at Harvard-Westlake Middle School, was rushed to UCLA Medical Center, where she died.
Authorities said the girl was crossing Sunset Boulevard against a red light at Cliffwood Drive about 7:20 a.m. when she was struck, first by a Toyota Highlander and then by an Infiniti.
Witnesses said the driver of the Infiniti stopped briefly on the side of the road and could be heard sobbing, "It's all my fault." They said he then drove off. Both cars were gone by the time an ambulance arrived.
The girl's mother, who had walked her daughter to the bus stop, was standing on a corner when the accident occurred, according to Cmdr. Andrew Smith of the Los Angeles Police Department. He said she ran into the street and pounded on the hood of a Mercedes-Benz that had been following the hit-and-run drivers. Authorities said the Mercedes driver was not involved.
"It's a 13-year-old girl, and her mother was there to witness the entire thing," Smith said. "It's just heart-wrenching is what it is."
Police later said they identified the driver of the Infiniti as a 16-year-old student at a nearby high school. They said he was interviewed but not taken into custody. His car was impounded.
Following several tips, police said, they have identified the driver of the SUV as a Brentwood woman, 51. She turned herself in Friday night and was being interviewed by detectives. No decision has been made on whether charges will be filed, authorities said. Her name was not released.
A witness said a number of students saw the vehicles hit the girl, including students in the school bus.
News of the accident rippled across the campus. Students were allowed to leave school with their parents, grief counselors were summoned, and spontaneous memorials popped up across the Internet.
Within hours of Julia Siegler's death, multiple Facebook groups devoted to her memory were created, one drawing more than 1,000 members. The Facebook pages were full of comments posted by people who identified themselves as friends, acquaintances and even strangers.
In the wall posts, friends remembered Julia as a sweet and intelligent girl and an artistic student who loved to dance. Others expressed anger that a driver would leave the scene of the accident.
At an assembly Friday morning, students wept as they were informed of their classmate's death, an administrator said.
"She was pretty much one of the nicest people in our school," said a friend who did not want to be identified. "Everybody loved her."
John Amato, vice president of Harvard-Westlake School, broke the news at the small middle school campus Friday morning.
"They were in disbelief . . . and then you talk and it comes back into focus. And at the end it was just very quiet," he said. Amato said the school's 720 students could find support in the larger school community.
"Kids are very, very resilient," he said. "It's not that they get over things, but when they support one another, they can deal with it better."
Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.