Tears flowed in Novato as word got out that a 12-year-old girl died Thursday evening of injuries suffered when she was struck by an SUV while riding her bike home from school at around 3 p.m.
Novato Police Acting Lt. Jennifer Welch confirmed that the bicyclist died at about 5:30 p.m. but did not confirm her identity.
Through a series of messages sent to Novato Patch and notes posted to Facebook, the victim has been identified as Hailey Ratliff, a Sinaloa Middle School student who moved to Novato over the summer with her family from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Several people who identified themselves as her relatives posted "rest in peace" messages on their Facebook pages Thursday night and sent messages to Novato Patch asking for prayers for the family.
"She is our niece and we love her very much — such a pretty loving little girl who had a very bright future," wrote her aunt, Laura McCarty. "Her father and mother are wonderful people they are very giving and loving. She will be truly missed forever. RIP we all love you."
Another relative, Crystal Ratliff-Chavez, wrote: "Thank you all for your prayers and concerns. This sweet and beautiful little girl was my niece. She ended up passing this afternoon. My brother and family are new to the area. We really appreciate the support from the community. Thank you all for the love and support you continue to show."
The Novato Police Department confirmed the death in a release at 8:55 p.m. A nursing supervisor at Oakland Children's Hospital referred a call about Ratliff's health to the Alameda County Coroner's Office.
At 2:59 p.m. Thursday, Novato police and fire officials responded to the crash site on Novato Boulevard just west of San Marin High School and just east of Sandy Creek Way.
Welch said the child was on a bike, was struck just in front of a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. substation and was transported in critical condition to a hospital.
The driver of the SUV, a man who was not identified by police, remained on scene after the accident and cooperated with the investigation, Welch said. There were no signs of impairment or traffic violations, according to the early report.
The cause of the collision has not yet been identified, but the preliminary indication from police was that Ratliff was riding her bike west on Novato Boulevard and was hit in the roadway by the SUV traveling east.
Investigators will work with the Marin County Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division, Welch said. Witnesses are asked to contact Novato police at 897-4361.
Shalee Cunningham, superintendent of the Novato Unified School District, said counseling would be available for students and staff Friday at the nearby schools.
"Our heart-felt thoughts are with the family," she wrote in a release.