A 12-year-old girl accidentally hit the accelerator instead of braking, causing the vehicle she was driving to run over her mother, said Jacinto City police.
The incident happened in the 10000 block of Verano near Holland shortly before 7 p.m. Wednesday. Police said the mother, Cherie Rangel, 30, parked her vehicle in the driveway of a vacant home for sale.
As she and four of her children stepped out to look at the house, she asked her 12-year-old daughter to push the pedal while she held on to the steering wheel from outside the car in order to move the SUV a few feet closer to the house.
"She told her ... daughter, 'When I tell you hit the brake, step on the brakes.' So the mom told the girl to step on the brake and when the little girl looked at the biggest pedal down on the ground, which was the gas pedal, the little girl stepped on the gas," said Sgt. Dennis Walker with the Jacinto City Police Department.
Walker said the SUV took off at a high rate of speed, throwing the mom underneath the back wheel.
"Dragging her from the tree all the way to the front of the house and the vehicle plunged into the front of the house," Walker said.
All six of Rangel's children saw the fatal accident. Relatives of the children picked them up a short time later.
Patty Patino was inside her home a few doors down and heard the crash.
"When I got to the corner, the kids were all screaming," Patino said. "We went over there and the mom was already dead on the floor."
Patino said she will never forget the sounds of the crying children.
"It's tragic," she said. "I don't know how they're going to deal with it."
Robert-Christian Santillan also heard a loud noise while at home. He's a filmmaker, and he grabbed his camera.
"I tried to get the best possible shot of the scene to understand what was going on," he said. "Something like this, so close, has changed me. It's shown me that life is precious and that at any second, things can change."
He said he feels bad for the girl who was driving.
"She's going to grow up without a mother, knowing it's her fault," Santillan said.
The family is on a fixed income. A trust fund has been set up for the children. Anyone wishing to make donations can do so at Capital Bank in Jacinto City by calling 713-675-2341.
A barbecue benefit will also be held for the family beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday at 830 Donfield in Channelview. For more information, call 713-459-4369.