VINELAND — A 2-year-old girl was killed Saturday night after a car driven by her mother struck her in the driveway of her paternal grandparents’ home. Jaelise Rodriguez, who would have turned 3 in March, was standing in the driveway, and her mother, Orialis Andion, of Vineland, must not have seen her in the dark, said her aunt Edissell Rodriguez, also of Vineland.
As of Sunday night, police said no charges have been filed.
“She was leaving the driveway and ended up going forward instead of backward, and didn’t see the baby,” said Edissell, the sister of Jaelise’s father, Rafiel Rodriguez. She added she hasn’t spoken to the mother and wasn’t there when the accident happened about 8:30 p.m.
Edissell also said it is unclear why Jaelise was not in the car, since her mom had come to pick her up, along with two other children, from Jaelise’s grandparents’ house.
The house is on a quiet cul-de-sac at the end of the section of Venus Drive that crosses Swelin Drive off West Oak Road.
Jaelise’s paternal grandfather, Ramon Rodriguez, of Vineland, was home when the accident happened, he said, but didn’t see how it happened. He is still struggling to understand, he said.
“It’s hard to explain what we feel,” he said with tears in his eyes. “Grandpas are an extension (of the parents). We love probably more.”
Neighbors, friends and relatives crowded the small home Sunday, coming to give their condolences and leaving flowers, candles, balloons and toys at a small memorial at the curb near the driveway.
Jaelise is the third Vineland child killed in accidents involving automobiles since Oct. 30, when Alexa Strittmatter, 14, was struck by two cars on Main Road while crossing to reach her bus stop. Jermire Lowery, 14, died after a car accident near Almond and Mill roads Nov. 11.
“(Jaelise) was a happy child who liked to dance,” said neighbor and close family friend Cerise Evans, who was there with her mom, Ivy Evans. “She was a happy baby in general.”
Edissell said Jaelise was well liked by other kids.
“Anywhere we went, she’d say hi to everyone,” Edissell said. “Other kids loved her.”
Jaelise leaves behind a 4-year-old brother, Julius, and an 8-year-old stepbrother, Jay’qwan, Edissell said.
Aunt Edili Rodriguez, of Vineland, brought pink and white flowers to the memorial as she prepared to help her brother with his grief.
“It’s not even close to over,” she said.
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