Authorities are searching for a hit-and-run driver responsible for killing an 11-year-old girl in Mississippi Saturday evening, police say.
At about 8:30 p.m., Leighton Hill was riding her bike while her mother walked alongside her when an unidentified vehicle struck the pair, officials say.
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“When officers arrived on scene, they discovered a juvenile female, and an adult female in the roadway,” according to a Facebook post on the official page of the Hattiesburg Police Department. “The juvenile female was deceased at the scene. The driver in the incident did not stop at the scene.”
As news spread that Leighton did not survive the incident, many people turned to social media to describe her enthusiasm for school, where she had been in the fifth grade.
“I am brokenhearted to share this,” wrote Abigail Allen on her Facebook page. “In the 6+ years that Smart Space has been teaching art and dance at the Earl Travillion Attendance Center, [teacher] Ellen and I have never had a more beloved student.”
Earl Travillion Principal Kristina Pollard told local website Hattiesburg American that Leighton was her student for five years.
“She was the sweetest, sweetest child I know,” she told the website. “She was always smiling. She was happy. She loved coming to school. She loved to give hugs.”
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The school’s superintendent emailed the website and called the incident a tragedy.
“She was enjoying riding her bike and making memories with her mother when someone took her life,” Forrest County School District Superintendent Brian Freeman wrote in an email. “Our prayers are with the family as they struggle through the loss of such an innocent child.”
Police say the investigation is ongoing and anyone with information about the fatal incident should call Hattiesburg Police or Metro Crime Stoppers at 601-582-STOP.