Manteca family mourns daughter’s Christmas Eve death, donates her organs after car crash

12/26/2013 12:41 PM

12/26/2013 9:41 PM

Mariah Izzo’s brand-new Twitter account shows a little girl excited for Christmas, with photos of decorations, Santa hats and stockings ready for hanging.

But the Manteca 9-year-old’s family spent Christmas Eve at her bedside at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where Mariah died from injuries suffered in a car crash Monday morning. The California Highway Patrol confirmed Mariah was pronounced dead at 9 p.m. Christmas Eve.

Her father, Tony Izzo, shared the news on his Twitter account. He spoke Thursday from the hospital, where family members remain while doctors remove Mariah’s organs for transplant.

Mariah was riding in the back of a Toyota RAV4 driven by her aunt, Debra Ellis, 43, of Escalon, when the crash occurred at 11 a.m. Monday in Modesto. Ellis had stopped for a red light; the light had just turned green when a Ford Expedition driven by Barbara Hicks, 66, also of Escalon, hit the back of the RAV4 going about 35 mph, the CHP said.

Ellis and a 10-year-old boy in the front seat suffered minor injuries; Hicks was not hurt. An investigation into the crash is continuing, but authorities said Monday that they do not believe drugs or alcohol were involved.

Mariah’s seat belt protected her body, but the force of the impact caused massive head trauma.

“She does not have one broken bone,” Tony Izzo said. But, he said, the doctors told the family that her brain and brain stem injuries were too severe to survive. “She didn’t have a chance.”

Tony Izzo said his daughter loved athletics and reading. She played soccer, earned her brown belt in tae kwon do and was about to start the basketball season at Van Allen Elementary School in Escalon. Principal Scott Ferreira has been to the Sacramento hospital to visit, Tony Izzo said.

Mariah attended Van Allen so family members who lived nearby could pick her up, Tony Izzo said. He and his wife, Susan Delgadillo Izzo, work long hours out of town. In addition, Mariah is survived by a 5-year-old brother, Marcus. Several photos of the little boy also appear on her Twitter feed, including one in which she described him as “sooo cute.”

“She was so athletic and so good,” Tony Izzo said of his daughter. She also had a silly streak: He said his favorite photo is one in which Mariah has pulled her long, blond hair across her upper lip and jokes on Twitter about needing to shave her mustache.

Mariah’s organs will go to at least five people. “We wanted to help some other child,” Tony Izzo said. “She’s my little hero.”

The family hasn’t made funeral arrangements, though Tony Izzo said they are considering having a service at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Modesto, where he and his wife were married. That will happen once the final medical procedure, to remove Mariah’s “superstrong” heart, is completed.

“We’re still here for my daughter,” Tony Izzo said, breaking into tears. “But it will happen today.

“We’re going home without our daughter today.”

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