Girl, 8, Killed When Mom Allegedly Makes Her Crawl Under Idling Train to Catch Bus on Other Side

A 44-year-old woman allegedly instructed her 8-year-old daughter to crawl underneath an idling train so they could catch a bus on the other side of the tracks, which resulted in the child’s death when the train started moving again, PEOPLE confirms.

According to Fresno police, Joy Frances Collins, 44, was arrested Monday on suspicion of child neglect likely to cause great bodily injury or death.

The 8-year-old victim, Joyanna Harris, died moments after crawling beneath a freight train car with her 9-year-old brother, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said at a Tuesday press conference.

The train had paused for 12 seconds, blocking the family from making their bus. It started moving when Joyanna was under it.

“A mother placed her daughter in a position where she could be seriously injured or killed, and that’s what we have to look at,” Dyer told reporters. “We have a responsibility to hold that person accountable.”

The incident occurred shortly before 6 p.m. on Monday. Police allege Collins ordered the two small children to scurry beneath the train.

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The 9-year-old boy escaped without injury. Joyanna hesitated, Dyer explained.

Collins allegedly shouted at the girl to “Hurry up!” Dyer said.

“Upon being encouraged by the mother to cross the track, she too made her way underneath the rail car and attempted to get to the other side,” Dyer said.

But the train jutted forward, pinning the girl and dragging her 500 feet. She died at the scene.

Dyer alleges this wasn’t the first time Collins had directed her children to crawl underneath a train.

“We know that she is hurting,” he explained. “I hope people understand that there is a balance that we have to achieve in law enforcement. No one last night wanted to arrest the mother for this crime but the law is the law.”

It was not immediately clear if Dyer has retained an attorney who could comment on her behalf.

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