Heartbroken mum’s childcare tragedy
A mother whose daughter was hit and killed in the driveway of her childcare centre while waiting to get in the car said she was turning the vehicle's airconditioning on when it rolled.
Charlotte Smithers, aged three, died when she was struck outside the centre in Epping, in Melbourne's north, about 4.45pm on October 14.
At the time, Victoria Police said the 26-year-old mother from Broadmeadows had been tending to one of her three other children already in the vehicle.
But Ms Furner told Daily Mail Australia she had gone to the driver's door and turned the airconditioning on as it was a hot day.
"I know 100 per cent the car was in park with the handbrake on, but when I went from my door to Charlotte's door to put her in the car, it rolled back," she said.
"I don't remember much after that … but the kindy ladies have told me I was holding her, screaming for help."
She said her little girl was bloodied and staff attempted to save her but she died at the scene.
"I just want people to know I didn't do it," Ms Furner said.
The mother was taken to hospital in a stable condition for non life-threatening injuries, while the other three children were uninjured, police said.
Ms Furner, who is heavily-pregnant with a baby boy, also claimed the Ford Territory was faulty and has considered taking legal action against the car rental company.
She said it has been "far too painful" for her to go home and face Charlotte's empty bed.
"I can barely function on a basic level at the moment, understandably," she wrote on her GoFundMe page.
"I was doing it tough financially before and I know I am not the only one, but if you are able to contribute any amount whatsoever towards helping me and my kids restart in a fresh rental and finish organising for my baby, I will be forever grateful."
She described her daughter's death as a "terrible accident" and she would never fully recover.
Detective Sergeant Daryll Out, in October, labelled the driveway death "terrible".
"The incident occurred when a car accidentally struck the young girl," he told reporters.
"We certainly urge anybody who's around children to be very careful and mindful that terrible accidents such as these can occur if everyone is not paying full attention to what they are doing."
Staff at the Kiddy Palace Learning Centre in Epping, 20km north of the Melbourne CBD, cried and comforted each other on the driveway less than 24 hours after Charlotte had died.
The victim's father, Adam Smithers, who is estranged from Charlotte's mother Ms Furner, has since shared images of her tiny, bright pink coffin adorned with flowers and a photo of her smiling face.
"Yesterday was a beautiful celebration of Charlotte's life, but l find this picture heartbreaking," one woman said on October 25.
Mr Smithers has also since named a star after his three-year-old daughter.
He told Nine News Charlotte had been a "bubbly, outgoing girl" who could light up the room.
"I'm devastated my little baby is gone …. I don't know what to feel," he said.