A 10-year-old girl was killed in California on Monday as she pushed two toddlers out of the path of a runaway SUV while the three were playing together on a driveway.
Kiera Larsen has been hailed a hero and a "guardian angel" for her fast-thinking in moving her neighbours, sisters one-year-old Adison and two-year-old Emma Jenkins, out of the way of the car in Lakeside, in San Diego county.
Investigators are trying to determine why the 1999 Mercedes SUV began rolling in reverse down the dirt driveway where the three girls were playing shortly after 5 pm, however local news reports indicate the vehicle may have been set in motion by another child.
"She is truly a hero. She will forever be my kids' guardian angel," the mother of the two girls, Alissa Jenkins, told Fox 5. "She saved both my daughters' lives."
"These are my two kids that I have and both of them could've been gone in an instant and she stepped in and took over and did what she knows best to do - and that's to protect those around her."
Kiera suffered major injuries when she was struck by the vehicle. She was pronounced dead in hospital.
"A child died heroically, I mean if you think about it, she sacrificed herself for another small child," California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Pearlstein told Fox.
"We're going to do an inspection on the vehicle, find out why this happened, find out if there was some sort of malfunction on the vehicle and go from there."
Jenkins and her fiancé Jonathan Gusich said Kiera was a 'big sister' to his little girls.
She was always looking out for them and apparently she gave her life for my kids,' Gusich said.
"I don't know how to repay them, repay her.
"She must have been the guardian angel yesterday and they're here because of her."
A GoFundMe has been set up for Kiera's family to assist with expenses.
As of Saturday morning (NZT), it had accumulated over US$78,000 in donations.
The page said that Kiera was a "sweet girl".
"Those of you who had the pleasure of knowing Kiera know that she is such an amazing, beautiful, smart and funny little girl. She truly brings so much love and happiness to so many people," the family write on the pages.
"The entire Larsen family cannot thank every single one of you for your love, support and prayers.
"You have no idea how much seeing the support from so many people has helped us during this incredibly tough time.
"Again, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts."