Shelly Davis was sitting on her porch outside her second floor apartment Wednesday talking to a neighbor when she directed her attention to the parking lot.
“I never heard the car start. The car rolled back ... it went over a bump,” she said.
When the van across the parking lot rolled further, Davis saw the bump it rolled over was a young child, the son of the woman in the van.
The accident happened around noon in the parking lot of Timbers North Apartments, 3500 Timberlake Road, when Maria Solome Vargas, 26, put her van into neutral with the ignition on. The van wasn’t running because, according to police, it was reportedly out of gas.
No one knows why Vargas put the vehicle into neutral.
Davis said Vargas was halfway in the driver’s seat and halfway out, with her left foot still on the pavement.
Three other children — ages 4, 5 and 6 — who also live in the home were in the van, according to a Johnson City Police Department crash report filed by Officer Keith Nave.
Davis said when Vargas realized what happened, she put the van in gear, jumped out and picked her son up off the pavement.
“I saw a head on the ground face down,” Davis said. At first she thought it was one of the older children, but quickly realized it was the baby when Vargas picked him up and ran toward the family’s apartment. “She was screaming” and talking in Spanish, said Davis, who called 911.
JCPD Sgt. Scottie Carrier, who was at the scene Wednesday, said Vargas thought her son was still inside the family’s apartment when the incident occurred.
“She planned to take lunch to her husband. She thought the child was still inside the apartment and apparently he had followed her out,” Carrier said.
Standard investigation protocol calls for the driver of a vehicle involved in a fatal crash to be tested for drugs and alcohol. Those test results on Vargas are still pending.
Davis said she has never witnessed such a tragic event.
“I have never, ever seen anything like that before. There was blood everywhere,” she said.
Davis said the incident has made her much more aware of her own 12-year-old daughter’s safety in the apartment complex parking lot.
The investigation is continuing.