SACRAMENTO - When a 3-year-old girl was killed during a two-car crash in Stockton, it left a mark on a stranger who pulled over to save her.
"I really want this girl to live. I just really want her to live," Mark Harrell of Modesto recalls thinking. The image of the girl taking her last breath is an image he will never forget.
It was Friday afternoon when he came across the tragic accident in Stockton, on Northbound Highway 99 and Hammer Lane. He saw an overturned SUV and pulled over. As he approached the vehicle, he saw a small body on the ground.
"The little girl, she was laying on her side. She looked like she was taking a nap so I just went right over to her. I knelt down next to her and I got right into her ear and just spoke quietly, 'honey, are you okay?'" said Harrell.
Viviana Guerrero, 3, of Atwater was ejected from the SUV after it collided with another car.
Officials with the CHP are still investigating the accident but say the girl was not in a car seat when the crash happened.
While people waited for emergency crews to arrive moments after, Harrell tried to bring some calmness to a chaotic situation unfolding before his very eyes.
"I had my back to the sun so she was shaded and I just wanted her to know that someone was there and that she was okay," Harrell said.
He held the child, knowing paramedics were on their way. But the situation quickly changed
"At some point in time, her abdomen quit moving in and out. She wasn't breathing anymore," said Harrell. "Her mom then came from the vehicle, saw her daughter -- shrieking in obvious pain."
Witnessing the loss of a young child really hit close to home for Harrell.
"It really just made me think about my kids, a lot," he said.
His youngest son is almost the age of the 3-year-old victim. The terrible scene has made him appreciate his kids even more.
He even feels a close connection with Viviana.
"Maybe this little girl's last little moments, there was some kind of peace, some safety she felt that she wasn't going through this by herself," said Harrell.
Despite the heartbreaking story, Harrell points out there is a lesson people can get out of this: be sure to properly restrain your kids in car seats.
A Modesto man recalls what he saw and felt when he came across a wreck in which a toddler was ejected from a vehicle. News10/KXTV