Sara Spagnolini faces criminal charges after the crash last August

By KC Baker
February 18, 2020 02:17 PM
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Francine Salazar
Credit: Family Photo

A California woman faces criminal charges in connection with a car crash that killed a 10-year-old girl whose organs helped more than 80 people.

On Friday, six months after the death of Francine Salazar, the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office charged Sara Spagnolini with felony vehicular manslaughter, local station ABC30 reports.

She was also charged with driving on a suspended or revoked license, a misdemeanor, and issued two traffic infractions for allegedly failing to stop at a stop sign and going at an unsafe speed for prevailing conditions.

The criminal charges stem from the horrific crash on Aug. 7 that killed the spunky fifth-grader.

On the afternoon of the accident, Francine’s mother, Hanah Salazar, had just picked up Francine and her siblings from their after-school program, ABC7 reports.

She planned to surprise them with a stop for ice cream so she took a different route than usual.

She was heading to the ice cream shop when authorities say Spagnolini, who was driving a Volkswagon sedan, slammed into her Kia minivan when she allegedly blew through a stop sign at a rural four-way intersection.

Spagnolini told California Highway Patrol she was driving at speeds of 60 to 80 miles per hour, the Visalia Times Delta reports.

The five children in the minivan, ages 3, 5, 6, 10 and 12, were all wearing their seat belts or using “safety equipment,” CHP officers said, the Visalia Times Delta reports.

Francine, who was sitting in the back, was left brain dead from her injuries.

She died on Aug. 10 but before that, in a “final act of kindness,” her family made the decision to donate her organs.

The donation would go on to save six people and help 75 others, the Donor Network West told ABC7.

“My daughter is a caring, loving, selfless person, and she would help everybody before herself,” Hanah Salazar told ABC 7.

Hanah braided her daughter’s hair one last time before she went into the operating room, ABC 7 reports.

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Among her last words to her daughter, were “Mommy will be fine. We will all be fine; you go ahead and go to the light, to God,” ABC7 reports.

Staff lined the hallway as she was wheeled into the room.

A Gofundme page that had been set up to help the family described Francine as “full of life, with dreams and aspirations.

“Francine was and will be continued to be loved by her family and friends,” the page said. “Remembering her spunky little self just makes our heart ache. There are no words to describe our sadness for losing Francine at such a young age.”

It’s unclear whether Spagnolini has entered a plea or retained an attorney who can speak on her behalf.

In January, Francine’s family filed a civil lawsuit against Tulare County and Spagnolini.

The Tulare County District attorney’s office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.