Family, community mourn 9-year-old fatally struck while checking mail

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An east Texas family and its community are mourning a 9-year-old girl struck and killed Monday evening as she walked to the mailbox across the street from her home.

Isabella Grace Smith, of Diana, was crossing the road to check the mail when she was struck by a truck driven by Patrick Johnson, 59, of Harleton, according to KYTX-TV in Tyler. Troopers with the Texas Department of Public Safety said Johnson apparently could not see the girl in the road.

Isabella, known to her loved ones as Bella, was taken to a hospital in nearby Longview, where she was pronounced dead. No charges were filed against Johnson, but the case remained under investigation Wednesday.

Bella's family described her to KLTV, also in Tyler, as a happy little girl who loved her dance and cheer classes. The girl's aunt, Misty Amaya, slipped back and forth between present and past tense as she talked about her niece.

"She also loves to laugh and so she was really funny," Amaya told the news station. "She likes to put on a show. She would do her cheers and gymnastics and somersaults. One thing we say we will miss, something we told her to stop saying, is, 'Watch me, watch this!'"

Dance teacher Raegan Mirick called Bella a perfect student.

"She was amazing," Mirick told KLTV. "She always had a smile. No matter what I asked from her, she always tried it and didn't complain. She was quiet, but she had a personality where, when she did say something, people listened."

Bella was a third-grade student at Robert F. Hunt Elementary School. A letter to parents from Teresa Beckham, the school's principal, told parents about Bella's fatal accident and informed them of the availability of counselors on campus.

"Your child may have difficulty processing this situation," Beckham wrote, suggesting that parents encourage their children to talk about their feelings. "If you feel that your child needs to speak with a counselor, please do not hesitate to call the school and let us know."

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Parents should also feel free to seek their own guidance from the counselors on how to help their children deal with the loss of their classmate, the principal said.

"This is a difficult time for everyone, but I know as a family we will walk through this together one step at a time," Beckham wrote.

As of midday Wednesday, a GoFundMe page designed to help pay for Bella's funeral arrangements had raised more than half of its $10,000 goal. Bella's funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at New Diana Independent School District's Norton Lovell Auditorium.

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