A 5-year-old girl walking home from school who was run over and crushed by a car which police believe was driven by a motorist using a phone remains critically injured with skull and spinal injuries.
The girl’s elder sister is credited with saving another sibling’s life by pushing her out of the way of the vehicle seconds before the collision, then stopping the driver from leaving the scene.
Little Sapphire Wakefield was struck by the car as she and her older sisters crossed Sharland Ave in Manurewa around 3.20pm last Thursday. The incident happened not far from the girls’ primary school.
It is understood Sapphire was resuscitated at the scene several times before being rushed to Starship Children’s Hospital with critical head injuries.
Since then she has had several life-saving surgeries to treat severe brain and spinal injuries.
Despite the horrific accident, her 12-year-old sister acted quickly to get help and is being described by school staff as a hero.
A teacher at Finlayson Park School where all three girls attend said Sapphire’s sister “acted heroically” and managed to get their 10-year-old sibling out of the path of the car.
“The older girl has managed to push the 10-year-old out of the way but couldn’t reach Sapphire, unfortunately,” teacher Cammy Ball said.
“Her sister felt so bad but she was a hero really and managed to get help straight away.”
It is understood the car hit Sapphire, dragging her for two metres, and then reversed over her, crushing her tiny body.
Finlayson Park School principal Sumithra Naidoo said the news had devastated the school community.
“It is just horrific what has happened to our little child, I couldn’t breathe when I heard what happened,” Naidoo said.
“Sapphire turns 6 tomorrow so we have made cards and we will sing a happy birthday message and post it to her dad.”
School friends had bought soft toys for Sapphire and a staff member would deliver them to the hospital.
“We can’t visit her because she is in intensive care but we can get the soft toys to her so she can feel them,” Naidoo said.
Naidoo had been in regular contact with Sapphire’s father Victor, who was “having a terrible time.”
“He sent me a text message on Sunday and said Sapphire was having a tough time but then that afternoon things had improved,” Naidoo said.
“She had opened her eyes and gave a little cry.”
Sapphire’s sisters returned to school yesterday after the traumatic incident.
“Sapphire’s older sisters are here with us at school and we are giving them as much support as they need.
“If they feel sad and need support we are here and if they need to go quickly to see their sister we can help.”
The school had set up a Givealittle page for the family to ease the financial pressure.
Sapphire’s father had exhausted his sick leave after suffering a heart attack a few months ago and had just returned to work.
He now needed to be with Sapphire at hospital.
All three sisters will have birthdays within the next two weeks, adding to the financial burden for the family.
“It is really bad timing for the family with Christmas and all of the birthdays,” Naidoo said.
“We wanted to do as much as we could for the family to get through this terrible time.”
Naidoo said dad Victor was very grateful for the help people gave his daughters at the accident scene and for the ongoing support.
“The school community is doing all they can with meals and support but the financial cost is going to be high,” Naidoo said.
Inspector Tony Wakelin said investigations were ongoing into the cause of the crash but police believed the use of a mobile phone may have been a factor in what occurred.
Wakelin said using cellphones while driving can contribute to someone’s loved ones possibly being killed on our roads.
“The message is: Don’t think ‘it won’t happen to me’, as the decisions we are seeing being made by drivers suggest - it might.”
“Charges are currently being considered in this case.”
Kirsty Wynn is an Auckland-based journalist with more than 20 years experience in New Zealand newsrooms. She has covered everything from crime and social issues to the property market and consumer affairs.