PLANT CITY — Kayla Faircloth mourned four years ago when her daughter fell out of a moving minivan.
It happened on the long, dirt driveway that leads to the family’s Plant City home. Faircloth’s great-grandmother was driving the van when 2-year-old Izabella fell out of the open side door and under the rear wheel, authorities said at the time.
On Tuesday, in an eerily similar tragedy, Faircloth’s 2-year-old son Josh was struck and killed while Faircloth was behind the wheel.
“My family is taking this really hard," Kayla’s sister Jenna Faircloth told the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s hard to lose one but to lose two, it’s even harder.”
Tuesday’s incident happened about 5 p.m. at the home on the 3900 block of State Highway 60. The Sheriff’s Office, withholding the names of anyone involved, gave this account, :
The boy’s mother and grandmother were in their yard the testing an SUV that had mechanical issues. The vehicle started to stall. The mother put it in reverse, hit a piece of wood, drove forward and then reversed again.
At this point, they noticed their dog running free in the yard and realized the boy could have gotten out of the house, too. They looked around the vehicle and found the boy lying on the ground in front of the SUV. He was flown to Tampa General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The death appears to be an accident but investigators were still working to determine whether criminal charges would be filed, sheriff’s spokeswoman Crystal Clark said. Two other children also live at the home but were not there at the time of Tuesday’s incident, Clark said. Child protective workers visited the home and an investigation is under way.
In declining to release names, the Sheriff’s Office cited its interpretation of Marsy’s Law, a state constitutional amendment designed to protect crime victims. Until an investigation is closed, the Sheriff’s Office also withholds the names of people involved in incidents that could result in criminal charges. In addition, Clark said, state law prohibits the office from releasing more details in a child protection case.
Kayla Faircloth memorialized the child she called her “turtle” in a public Facebook post Wednesday.
“I miss u,” the post said. “U was a handful but u was mine...”
Faircloth set her Facebook page to private on Thursday. She did not respond to Facebook messages. Jenna Faircloth, who has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Joshua’s funeral, said her sister didn’t feel up to talking to reporters.
“She’s a good mom,” said Faircloth, who was in the delivery room when her sister gave birth to Izabella and Josh. “She loves her kids.”
Josh was a smart, energetic boy who knew his colors and his ABCs, his aunt said. He was also a good actor, she said.
“He would walk by his brother A.J. and trip himself and start crying, saying A.J. pushed him," Faircloth said. “Well, he did not know that my mom was watching him."
The Faircloths’ mother Julie, who was in the Blazer when Josh was struck, helped raise her grandchildren and is struggling to cope with the loss of yet another one, Jenna Faircloth said.
The events that led to Izabella’s death in 2015 started with a trip to the bus stop.
That day, March 18, the girl’s fraternal great-grandmother Alice Barber drove with Izabella to pick up her two brothers at the bus stop. One of the brothers ran home, and the other jumped into the back of the 2008 Kia Sedona. Izabella asked to ride in the back with him, Barber told the Times in an interview at the time.
Barber, who was 69 then, said that on any other day, Izabella would have been wearing a seatbelt. But that day, Barber allowed the kids to sit on the floor with the door open. Barber said she told the brother to hold on to the girl.
Izabella was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital, where she died from her injuries.
No charges were filed in the case. Later, Barber said she would trade places with Izabella if she could.
“It wasn’t a wise decision I made, but I don’t know anyone who has never made a mistake in their lives,” she said.
The family’s suffering should serve as a warning to others, Jenna Faircloth said Thursday.
“The only thing I can say to people out there is just be careful," she said. "Everyone make mistakes. Unfortunately, mistakes can cost lives.”