The child killed on Ga. Highway 81 Wednesday morning has been identified as 12-year-old Lynneah Browning, and while many are working to come to grips with the tragedy, the Georgia State Patrol is working to figure out why the child was walking along the road.
Authorities initially received a call for help around 6:59 a.m., after 35-year-old Charnelle Martin-Gaillard from Stockbridge, reportedly struck a female who was walking along the busy road with her 2005 Toyota Camry. According to GSP Spokesman Gordy Wright, Browning had no identification on her when she was hit, while the driver was traveling northbound just past the first Oak Hill Road entrance. The driver stopped her vehicle and called for help. She remained on the scene for hours, while traffic on that stretch of Ga. Highway 81 was rerouted and the road shut down for roughly seven hours. It was several hours before a positive identification could be made using dental records.
Although she lived in Newton County, Browning attended Hampton Middle School in Henry County, since her stepmother worked for Henry County schools. Their home is roughly three miles from the crash scene, according to Wright.
It is unclear why the child was walking along the highway, however Wright said that she had stayed home from school Tuesday because she had a doctor's appointment. When her father arrived home around 11:30 a.m. to pick her up and she was not at home, he called 911 to report her missing.
Henry County School System released a statement Thursday regarding the student's death and the availability of a crisis team for students and teachers who knew the young girl.
"Sadly, it has been confirmed to us that the pedestrian struck by a car and killed Wednesday morning in Newton County was one of our students. The sixth-grade student attended Hampton Middle School, which is right next to the elementary school where her stepmother worked.
"As with all tragedies in our district, a crisis response team has been made available at the middle school for students, faculty and staff members needing to speak with someone.
"We ask that everyone keep this family and school close in thought as we send our condolences to them during this very difficult time."
"Nothing is more difficult or heartbreaking than the loss of a child. We share the family's grief and our thoughts and prayers are with them during this most difficult time," said Henry County Superintendent Ethan Hildreth.
And Carolyn Flemister-Bell, principal of Hampton Middle School, said, "We are very saddened with the loss of Lynneah. It is never easy for a school nor a family to lose a child. She was a part of our fabric and we will miss her tremendously. Her teachers spoke about her attentiveness in class and her ability to explain and give details when answering questions.
"Her explanations helped our other students have a better understanding of the standards. Lynneah's presence will be missed by everyone. Her family is in our thoughts and hearts as they endure this difficult time."
Charges are pending against the driver who struck the child, following a thorough investigation by the GSP's Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team.