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12-year-old girl struck, killed on A1A crosswalk in Satellite Beach

Sophia Nelson was in 6th grade at Surfside Elementary School

SATELLITE BEACH, Fla. – The family of a 12-year-old girl says she was “killed almost instantly” after she was hit by a car while using a crosswalk on A1A in Satellite Beach.

Sophia Nelson was crossing at State Road A1A and Ellwood Avenue at 5:37 p.m. on Dec. 22 when she was struck by a vehicle, according to a Satellite Beach police report.

Sophia was taken to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando with very serious injuries, according to the report. The driver is cooperating with authorities and the investigation into the crash is ongoing, police said.

Sophia’s father, Mark Nelson, said his daughter died Monday as a result of her injuries.

Nelson said he, Sophia, her grandfather and their family dog were about to cross the road together when she was hit.

Sophia pressed the crosswalk button “like she did dozens of times” prior to the crash, her father said.

After Sophia was hit, Nelson said he rushed to his daughter’s side.

“As I cleared her airway she started breathing again and I had a brief time to tell her we all love her,” Nelson said, adding she stopped breathing on her own soon after.

Sophia was taken to Holmes Regional and then to Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital for surgery in an attempt to save her life, Nelson said. She was declared brain dead Monday afternoon.

The family said they were able to donate some of Sophia’s organs on Christmas Day, potentially saving lives.

On left, Sophia Nelson, 12, after donating her hair. On right, another family photo of Sophia. (Images courtesy of Nelson family)
On left, Sophia Nelson, 12, after donating her hair. On right, another family photo of Sophia. (Images courtesy of Nelson family)

The 12-year-old girl was a 6th-grade student at Surfside Elementary School and will be sorely missed by her family, friends, parish and her classmates.

Community members and friends of Sophia met at Surfside Thursday afternoon to place blue ribbons around trees in her memory.

Sophia’s former 5th-grade teacher described her as a “super sweet girl” and “everyone loved her.”

School district officials said grief counselors will be at Surfside when students return from holiday break Jan. 8.

Recently, Nelson said Sophia had donated her hair to help make wigs for cancer patients.

Funeral arrangements are being made at the family’s church Holy Name for Jesus. In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made to Sophia’s favorite charity St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Blue Ribbons tied around trees at Surfside Elementary School to honor Sophia Nelson, 12. (Image: Amanda Castro/WKMG)
Blue Ribbons tied around trees at Surfside Elementary School to honor Sophia Nelson, 12. (Image: Amanda Castro/WKMG)

The crash is reigniting some residents' concerns over flashing crosswalks along A1A.

Dan Willemin is organizing a protest on Saturday at the crosswalk and holding a moment of silence for Sophia. He said the flashing crosswalks are a start to keeping pedestrians safe, but he believes they create a false sense of security and the city should do more.

“We need to put stop lights here. We need to indicate to motorists that they need to be stopping,” Willemin said.

News 6 called and emailed the city manager to see if city officials are looking into these safety concerns or doing any educational campaigns to teach drivers and pedestrians how to use the crosswalks safely. We have not heard back.

News 6 Traffic Safety Expert Trooper Steve Monterio said the flashing lights at these crosswalks add an extra layer of security and drivers are required to stop.

“That’s an extra kind of safety factor that comes into play. That’s saying, ‘Hey, I’m a pedestrian choosing to cross in the right spot and I’m also going to hit this button to make that flashing light visual for other drivers to see that I’m here to cross,’” Monterio said.


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