5-year-old girl in critical condition, police seek suspect after hit and run crash

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SALT LAKE CITY – A 5-year-old girl is in critical condition after she was hit by a car Friday night, and police are searching for the driver who fled the scene after the crash.

The incident occurred Friday at about 9:40 p.m. as the girl crossed 400 South near 100 West.

Family members said the victims is named Tina, and she was playing at a friend’s house when she decided to cross the street to go to her own home for a drink, which is when she was hit by a car. Family members said Tina's sixth birthday is on Monday.

The young girl is being treated at Primary Children’s Hospital, family members said, and the young girl was undergoing surgery Saturday morning. She suffered head injuries and internal bleeding.

"I came over to run to her," said Juliana Tafuma, the victim's sister. "She wasn't blinking at all, and her face was purple and red.... I said, 'Get up' and she wouldn't get up."

The victim’s sister said the car was being driven by two men, who sped off after hitting Tina.

She said: "I heard one of the men in the cars say, 'Oh no. We ran over a little girl,' and one of the men in the car said, 'lets just leave her.'"

Police said they are searching for a light gray or tan sedan with damage to the front end of the car. The vehicle is believed to be about 10 years old and has a black/white tribal bumper sticker above the rear license plate.

The girl reportedly crossed the street by herself and was not in a crosswalk. Police said if the driver had stopped, it’s possible no charges would have been filed in the case. Now, since the suspect fled, the driver faces the possibility of multiple felony charges.

"This person is facing felony charges, and if [the victim] does not make it then they will probably be facing automobile homicide," said Sgt. Robin Heiden of the Salt Lake City Police Department. "Hopefully someone will turn themselves in or someone will recognize the vehicle and give us a call."

Neni Kula is the victim's aunt, and she said she doesn't understand why the driver fled.

"I'm really angry," she said. "I don't understand what type of person would do that, not come by and see how she is doing, at least stop."

Kula said the tragedy has struck them hard.

"She's just, she's full of life," she said of Tina. "She's a happy person. She loves to hang out with her family. She has a very beautiful smile. She's just a great person."

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Salt Lake City police.