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Alan Neves, KSL-TV
A shrine in Cedar City pays homage to Allison Sousa, who died Tuesday after being dragged for 3 1/2 miles.

CEDAR CITY — Seven-year-old Allison Sousa was a happy, sweet child who always looked after the other kids in her class.

Sousa, a second-grader at North Elementary School, died Tuesday morning in a bizarre dragging accident.

"She was special in the hearts of many people," said Jim Johnson, Iron County School District superintendent.

A crisis management team arrived at the school around 9 a.m. to help students and teachers deal with the tragedy, Johnson said.

"The counselors divided into pairs and talked with the kids," he said. "It's a tremendous loss. There were a lot of tears and a lot of compassion was shown by everyone."

Several children asked to call their parents and have them come down to the school, Johnson said.

"A few wanted to talk about it with their parents in a private room," he said. "We'll be dealing with this for quite some time. It's just so tragic. It happened so quickly and was so intense."

Sousa's teacher, Dawn Little, endured several interviews with reporters, describing her student as a fun, happy child, before she told Johnson she had had enough of the news media, he said.

Sousa's morning began early with a ride to her bus stop on U-56. She was waiting with a couple of fifth-grade students when an aunt drove up to retrieve mail in the cluster box near the stop, Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower said.

The girl asked her aunt for a ride to school and was turned down, Gower said. When Sousa closed the car door, the driver was unaware the girl's coat was stuck in the door.

"The driver didn't realize she was caught in the door and started driving away. The car got up to highway speeds," Gower said.

At least one of the fifth-grade students ran after the car, trying to get the driver to stop, the sheriff said.

"One or both of the kids tried to chase the car because they could see the little girl running alongside, but they couldn't stop it," he said.

A truck driver going in the opposite direction also tried to alert the driver that something was wrong but wasn't able to get her attention.

"She (the driver) finally noticed something in her rear view mirror," Gower said, adding Sousa was dragged about 3 1/2 miles before the vehicle stopped.

The driver placed Sousa in the back seat of her car and drove to a nearby business, Cedar Valley Truss, where she called 911.

Sousa was pronounced dead at the scene, Gower said. No charges will be filed against the driver, he said.

"Some of our most seasoned officers were very, very shook up by this," Gower said. "Quite a few were having a hard time with this and visibly tearing up. They did a good job, though. I'm very proud of them."

A debriefing was scheduled for Tuesday evening to help those who responded to the accident and any others who need to talk, Gower said.

"People need to make sure children are clear of their vehicle before they pull out," he said. "This was such a tragic accident."


E-mail: nperkins@infowest.com