BLACKSHEAR, Ga. – A 5-year-old Pierce County, Georgia, girl died early Monday, hours after a stone monument that she and her sister were playing on collapsed and fell on top of her.
The accident happened about 7:45 p.m. while Bella Bennett and her 8-year-old sister were playing at the Lee Street Resource Center in Blackshear, according to the Blackshear Police Department. Police Chief Chris Wright told News4Jax the older girl jumped off the monument, which sent the 300-pound stone toppling over, landing on the younger sister.
The girl, who had just started kindergarten at Blackshear Elementary, was taken to the hospital and later airlifted to Wolfson Children’s Hospital. She was pronounced dead at 3:45 a.m. Monday, the chief said.
A man who said he was trying to help rescue Bella didn’t want to give his name.
“The dad was down that whole time trying to remove this slab off of her and he was not successful,” he said. “I tried to lift it up so he could pull her out and we weren’t successful.”
It ultimately took three men to move the slab, which covered half the little girl’s body.
Police say the two sisters lived with their grandmother about a block away from the Lee Street Resource Center.
Photos show only one bolt in the downed monument. Police said they will be investigating how this tragedy happened.
Priests, deacons and community members gathered at the site Monday afternoon to honor and remember Bella.
“This community needs you, oh Lord,” one of the mourners prayed. “We need you, Lord, like we’ve never needed you before.”
Mandy Williams, assistant principal at Blackshear Elementary, said Bella loved animals, especially horses. But most of all she loved playing with her sister.
“That was one of her favorite things to do,” said Williams, who has known Bella since she started preschool. “We’re family. Our school is a family and the Pierce County nation is hurting right now. Pray for their family. Right now, that’s what they need the most is your prayers.”
Asked for her favorite memory of Bella, Williams said she remembered how happy she was to be at school.
“I would stand in the big kindergarten hall,” Williams said. “I would say, ‘There’s Bella.’ She’s so excited to see me. Can’t you see how excited she is and she would kind of be down, so you could tell she was happy to be there.”
Asked for a comment, the Resource Center said its attorney would be sending a statement, which will be added to this story when it is provided.