LOCAL

4-year-old killed in crash while trick-or-treating with mom on Northeast Side identified

Bethany Bruner
The Columbus Dispatch
Catherine Rodriguez, 4, died on Monday after being struck by a vehicle while trick-or-treating on the city's Northeast Side. A family friend, Valeria Saucedo, was seriously injured in the crash.

Editor's Note: This story has been changed to correct the identity of the woman who was struck with 4-year-old Catherine Rodriguez as Valeria Saucedo.

A 4-year-old girl who died Monday evening after a pickup truck hit her while she crossed a road during trick-or-treating on Columbus' Northeast Side has been identified in a public fundraiser for funeral expenses.

As of mid-afternoon Thursday, a GoFundMe for the family of Catherine Rodriguez had raised nearly $12,000 to help her family cover funeral expenses. At that time, Columbus police had not formally identified the 4-year-old or the woman with her, citing a lack of confirmation the child's next-of-kin was notified about her death.

The GoFundMe page said Catherine Rodriguez and her mother, Beatriz Rodriguez, were with friends trick-or-treating around 6:55 p.m. on Westerville Road near Valley Park Avenue on the city's Northeast Side.

On Nov. 8, Columbus police identified the other woman who was struck as Valeria Saucedo, a friend of the Rodriguezes who was with them while trick-or-treating.

Previous coverage:4-year-old child struck by vehicle, killed while trick-or-treating on Northeast Side

The woman and the child were in the crosswalk, and flashing lights on a pedestrian crosswalk sign were activated at the time of the crash, police said.

Catherine was taken to Nationwide Children's Hospital, where she died from her injuries. Saucedo was taken to OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital in critical condition, but no update on her condition has been available.

The driver of the Ford F-150 truck that hit the pair, whom police have also not identified, stayed at the scene and has cooperated with the investigation, which remains ongoing.

According to the GoFundMe page, Catherine had a "big heart" and enjoyed playing with other children, watching movies and spending time at the park.

"Catherine's presence and smile brought joy to her family," the fundraiser page said.

Catherine attended A Better Choice Daycare and Learning Center on the Northeast Side from the time she was an infant, the daycare posted online Wednesday.

"She became like family to us. From not talking to having so much to say," the day care wrote. "This beautiful girls (sic) smile would light up a room. We are all so devastated and heartbroken."

Kelley Spence, the owner and director of the day care, said Thursday the entire staff was devastated to lose Catherine, who Spence described as being gentle and mild-mannered with a "magnetic smile."

"She always wanted to show me her ring, show me her dress, show me the bow in her hair," Spence said. "She's one of the best little ones we've had here at the center; I can honestly say that."

Spence said Catherine dressed up as a character from the Pixar movie "The Incredibles" for the day care's Harvest Festival last week and was ready for trick-or-treating on Monday.

"She was so excited about going," Spence said. "I remember her running to her mom when she picked her up."

A local funeral service is currently being planned for Nov. 7.

Money is being sought to help send Catherine's body back to El Salvador, where she has family. As of 2 p.m. Thursday, more than $11,800 had been raised toward a goal of $20,000.

bbruner@dispatch.com

@bethany_bruner