RICHMOND HILL, Ga. (WSAV) – Emily Ridley says her 7-year-old son Jack had a heart of gold big enough for his family, his friends and nearly anyone else with whom he came into contact.
She says his compassion and fun-loving personality often inspired a loud performance or an organized Nerf gun war.
The memories still make her laugh.
“He just had this aura about him that was bright,” said Ridley.
At 4 feet, Ridley says her son was tall for his age. And one day, he hoped his obsession with dinosaurs would lead him to a career as a scientist.
But his death means he will never get the chance.
The Richmond Hill community — including other students at Richmond Hill Primary — is also mourning Jack’s death. A memorial of balloons, stuffed animals, and flowers is growing at the site where Georgia State Patrol (GSP) says he was hit and killed by a 70-year-old driver and a 2006 Honda Odyssey.
Ridley says she heard about the accident when a neighbor showed up to tell her and her fiancé, Manny. She says she ran out the door and rushed to her son’s side.
“I was checking him and then I got right to work. And so I was doing CPR until EMS arrived and I was trying everything I could,” said Ridley, who was trained as a Marine and military police officer.
Unfortunately, she was too late. Jack, who suffered two brain hemorrhages, succumbed to internal injuries at the hospital.
After an initial investigation, GSP says there is no indication that the driver of the car came to an immediate stop when she hit Jack because there are no skid marks on the road. Instead, a trooper says she slowed down her car.
The family says Jack’s body was likely dragged 100 feet up the road.
Witnesses told troopers the woman in the car seemed to not know she had hit a child.
“Then and even now it feels like a nightmare,” said Ridley.
At home, Ridley is faced with two realities. On one hand, there are mementos of her son’s happy life, including an untouched bedroom and a chore chart that still lists Jack’s name. But on the other hand, there are candles and sympathy cards to remind them of his tragic death.
“It almost feels like he’s gone away for a little bit and he’ll be back,” said Ridley.
As she grieves her loss, Ridley says she is putting effort into advocating for safer streets surrounding her neighborhood on Kepler Loop. She wants more streetlights and at least two speed bumps at the entrances to the neighborhood.
In the meantime, Ridley says she is comforted by her last interaction with her son, which she says was just like him: sweet and fun.
“I saw Jack and he said ‘look what I can do!’ And he did this little jump on the scooter and I was really proud of him,” she said.
If you would like to contribute to the family a GoFundMe is growing. The family says an unauthorized person in Hinesville is attempting to collect money on their behalf but has not contacted them. They believe the person is acting maliciously and encourage those looking to donate to avoid other outlets.