7-Year-Old Dies After Being Struck by Boat on California Lake: 'We Are Completely Devastated'
Lily Harris was just one week away from her 8th birthday when she was fatally struck by a boat while on a Labor Day trip to the lake with her family
Lily Harris was just one week away from her 8th birthday when she was fatally struck by a boat while on a Labor Day trip to the lake with her family, relatives said.
The little girl died at a hospital on Monday after she and her father, 32-year-old Brandon Harris, were struck by a pontoon boat as they floated on Bass Lake in Madera County, California, in an inflatable tube attached to their ski boat, according to a police statement obtained by PEOPLE from the Madera County Sheriff’s Office. Brandon was injured, but is expected to survive.
“The last few days have been horrible. Like a terrible nightmare we can’t wake up from,” Lily’s aunt, Amanda Perez, tells PEOPLE. “It’s our Lily, she was only 7. She had her whole life ahead of her. We are broken and completely devastated.”
Brandon did all he could to shield and protect the 7-year-old girl as the boat crashed into her and her father, Lily’s uncle, Justin Harris, told KGPE.
“Their boat just approached us from behind, not seeing us — as the driver told me later on,” Justin said through tears. “Brandon did his best. Me and my brother have always been close growing up so it feels kinda like losing a daughter.”
Perez tells PEOPLE that Brandon is “not doing good,” but will hopefully be released from the hospital on Thursday.
The incident is under investigation but authorities with the sheriff’s office say they have determined that drugs and alcohol were not factors in the accident, and the operator of the pontoon boat had a rental contract, according to a police statement obtained by PEOPLE.
Perez says that Lily’s mother is distraught, and has spent the past few days at Brandon’s side.
“My sister just broke down. She’s beyond devastated. Her world has been turned upside down,” Perez tells PEOPLE, noting that Brandon hasn’t stopped talking about his daughter. “He tried. He keeps saying he tried to save her. He wanted it to be him not her. It’s his baby. His first born.”
Perez said that Lily’s 3-year-old sister, Claire, was with the family at the time of the accident, according to KFSN.
“Claire just kept crying, saying, ‘the boat, the boat, Lily’s dead.’ ”
No one has been arrested in the incident and all parties are cooperating with the investigation, according to the police statement.
Parez has set up a GoFundMe page to benefit the family in the wake of the tragedy.