Classmates of a 9-year-old West Richland girl who was run over by her mother in a bank parking lot wrote cards with special messages about their friend and put them on her empty desk.
Extra counselors also were at Tapteal Elementary School in West Richland to provide support for students and staff, along with a representative from Tri-Cities Chaplaincy, said Steve Aagaard, Richland School District spokesman.
"Anytime you lose a kid like this, it's a tragedy," Aagaard told the Herald. "We're having to deal with the emotions there today."
Sydnee Neiman was killed Thursday in a tragic incident in the parking lot at Gesa Credit Union. Her mother, Judy Neiman, had apparently thought Sydnee was in the SUV, but backed over her while the girl was walking around the vehicle, West Richland police said.
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Sydnee suffered severe injuries and died at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland a few hours after the 4:30 p.m. crash.
West Richland police Capt. Al Escalera said investigators still are trying to establish some chain of events that led crash. They got help from the Washington State Patrol's collision technical specialists.
So far, investigators determined that Sydnee arrived at the Gesa Credit Union on Paradise Way with her mother and another boy.
Sydnee was in the right rear passenger seat and the boy was in the left rear passenger seat, Escalera told the Herald.
They went into the credit union to do some banking and when they came out, the boy got into the right rear passenger seat where Sydnee had been sitting.
Escalera said it appears Sydnee opened the door, saw the boy sitting in her seat and then walked around the back of the SUV to get into the other side.
Her mother apparently heard the door shut, assumed Sydnee had gotten into the car and started to back up as Sydnee was behind the vehicle, he said.
Sydnee was featured in a Herald story last year after getting a wish granted from the Make-A-Wish Foundation for a family trip to Disney World. She had an incurable heart disease and was facing her fourth open heart surgery that summer.
She was born with a rare condition called truncus arteriosus. People with disease have one large artery to carry blood from their heart instead of two, according to the American Heart Association.
Sydnee was a fourth-grader at Tapteal.
"Sydnee was a wonderful student and a friend to many students at our school," Principal Rhonda Pratt said in the letter sent home with students Friday. "Her ever-present smile and positive attitude made her a joy to be around. Sydnee was a very important part of our school and we will truly miss her."
In the letter, Pratt told parents that teachers and staff have been working with students dealing with some feelings that came up when they heard what happened and provided some information about how to help their children cope with the loss.
"Please remember that children grieve in different ways and in different stages," she said. "Many children are able to express their thoughts and feelings if they are able to have a sympathetic discussion with a trusted and loved person. Some may choose not to talk about it at all. ... Just letting your child know you are there may be enough."