Alesia Abbott was the first adult to rush to the scene after frantic children said her daughter was trapped in a mechanical gate outside their home.
"I ran out and she's crying, 'Mom, help me,'" Ms. Abbott recalled Monday.
Ms. Abbott called 911, but within minutes, her daughter, Ahjzanae Triplett, 11, went limp, and she died before authorities arrived. Toledo firefighters pronounced her dead about 3:34 p.m. Sunday.
"She died on me," Ms. Abbott said. "My firstborn child. I don't know how I'm going to make it without her."
Family members Monday described Ahjzanae as a "helper" who had an irreplaceable presence in the family.
Ahjzanae of 1855 Collingwood Blvd. was collecting rocks Sunday afternoon with her 4-year-old brother and another child in the enclosed parking lot in front of Museum Place apartments. The gate was activated at 3:30 p.m., trapping the girl.
Authorities said she became trapped between a mechanical gate and its control box. The victim died of compressive asphyxia because she was wedged into such a small space, said Dr. Diane Barnett, a Lucas County deputy coroner. The death is not being investigated as a homicide and probably was accidental, police said.
Ahjzanae turned 11 a little over a week ago and had just returned from a weekend celebrating with friends and family the day she died. She recently finished fifth grade at Emmanuel Christian Academy in West Toledo, where she played on the basketball team.
"Nine days after her birthday, she leaves," Ms. Abbott said. "I would never imagine this in my life."
It is still unclear how the gate was activated or how the girl got stuck. Dr. Barnett guessed Ahjzanae could have been standing on the gate as it was moving, but she doesn't believe the girl climbed over the gate.
"It's too tall, and it's got those spiky tops," she said.
Local managers at the Museum Place apartments referred questions to their management company, Wallick-Hendy Properties, at its headquarters in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, near Columbus. The company has not determined how the gate was opened, said senior vice president Rowe Shockley.
The gate can be opened when vehicles drive over a control pad, but no cars tried to enter or leave the lot at the time. An electronic eye is meant to stop the gate when it detects an object in its path, but was not in a position to detect the girl, Dr. Barnett said.
The death is the first accident involving an electronic security gate on any of Wallick-Hendy's properties, Mr. Shockley said.
The Museum Place apartment building was revived in the late 1990s with state and federal grants and municipal support. Yet the project proved less financially successful than planned, forcing the city to make annual payments toward its debt.
Despite its financial obligation on the property, the city of Toledo has no liability regarding the death at the apartment because "the city does not own, control, or operate the building," city Law Director Adam Loukx said.
The gate was manufactured by Linear Osco of Casnovia, Mich. A company spokesman there declined to comment yesterday.
The girl's grandmother, Del-Rio Scott, said Ahjzanae enjoyed reading, spelling, and playing computer games. She said her oldest granddaughter was very athletic and liked to skate, swim, and do gymnastics.
"That was my grandbaby. I'm going to miss her smile, her laughter, her positiveness, her eagerness to learn," Ms. Scott said. "She was an outgoing, loving, enjoyable young lady."
Ms. Abbott said she will miss her daughter's "helpful" and "good-spirited" presence. "She's my helper," she said, remembering a time her daughter assisted her in carrying a large TV. "We did everything together, me and her. … She was just like me. Another me."
Mike Farley, principal at Emmanuel Christian Academy, said he saw Ahjzanae grow in the three years she attended the school. He said she was a normal fifth grader who enjoyed reading and being with friends.
"It's obviously a tragedy. Her life was taken so abruptly, so unexpectedly," he said. "What would the Lord have been able to do in this young girl's life? But obviously he is in control of all things, and we don't understand why."
Two girls in the United Kingdom were killed recently when they became caught in automatic gates. Karolina Golabek, 5, was killed July 3 in South Wales, and Semelia Campbell, 6, June 28 in Manchester, according to the Independent newspaper.
Ms. Abbott did not have life insurance and has created a memorial fund to help pay for the services. Donations are being accepted at KeyBank branches in Ahjzanae's name.
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