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FHP: 3-year-old girl seriously hurt after being hit by pickup

Kenya Buckle on ventilator machine at hospital after Palatka crash, mother says

PALATKA, Fla. – A 3-year-old girl is breathing with the help of a ventilator machine after she was struck by a pickup truck in Palatka earlier this week, her mother said Wednesday.

Kenya Buckle, 3, of Palatka suffered a head injury and was airlifted to UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville in critical condition.

"I'm just praying that she gets back to herself, (gets to) come home," said Tarhonda Mack, Kenya's mother.

Mack has been by her daughter's side at the hospital since the accident. She said the pain she's experienced while watching her daughter fight for her life is something no parent should have to experience.

"I just pray that no other mothers have to go through this. That's what I pray," Mack said.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the red Chevrolet Silverado was traveling south on U.S. 17, approaching the intersection of State Road 100, just after 6 p.m. Monday when it struck the child, who was crossing the road with several other pedestrians. 

Mack said the other pedestrians were her 18-year-old son, her younger son and niece, who may have been headed to a playground near her home with the toddler. 

"My sister did tell me that my son said that they were going across the road and a truck was coming fast and he was trying to make them turn around and my daughter didn't make it," Mack said,

The 26-year-old driver of the truck, Jeremy Froehlich of East Palatka, was not injured, the FHP incident report said. 

But Mack said she's only focusing on her baby girl's recovery right now,

"My main focus was to get where she was. I didn't even stick around to hear the story," Mack said. "Just make sure you keep an eye on your kids and make sure you know where they are at all times, even if you're at work."

Mack was told by doctors that her daughter will have a long road to recovery. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help her family with medical expenses. 

People in the area have expressed concerns about the intersection, saying safety improvements need to be made.

"This is pretty dangerous. You know, there's no crosswalk or anything here," said Terrence Kemp, who works nearby.  "And there's a big housing developing over there, so it's a lot. Maybe they should think about maybe putting in, at least, a crosswalk or something like that."

The Highway Patrol continues to investigate.