Police are still trying to find out why a 12-year-old girl was driving a car at 2am before she died crashing it into a tree.
Josseline Molina-Rivas was killed when the Toyota Corolla veered off the road and hit a tree in Columbia, Maryland, on Sunday.
Her 36-year-old stepfather Mario Arturo-Artiga was in the passenger seat and is now said to be in a coma in hospital after suffering serious injuries.
Howard County Police said it was unclear why the pair were out driving together with the youngster behind the wheel and what caused the vehicle to leave the road
Investigators traced the registered owner of the car and discovered they lived together in the same apartment in Columbia with numerous family members and residents.
The schoolgirl’s mother Grecia Rivas said she woke in the middle of the night to find her daughter and car keys were missing.
She told Telemundo 44: “I was asleep. I didn’t feel my girl, and when I woke up, I was scared. I couldn’t find my car keys. I didn’t know where Josseline was.
“I don’t know anything. I don’t even know where they were going… When I went to sleep, I went to sleep with her at my side… That’s why I woke up because my daughter wasn’t next to me.”
Police believe speed was a factor in the crash. They are also investigating whether either occupant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Josseline’s uncle Pablo Aaron Rivas said the family were struggling to believe his niece was behind the wheel.
He said: “The police say she was driving, and we can’t accept that.”
A fundraising page set up to help the family pay for funeral costs described Josseline as a “wonderful daughter and niece who touched the lives of those around her”.
It added: “Josseline was young and had a full life ahead of her. She was in the 5th grade. She liked to dance and play with her little cousins.
“We are all devastated by the loss of Josseline and were not prepared for the high cost of a funeral service. We want to give Josseline the wake she deserves, honour her memory and say goodbye for the last time.”
Police said the investigation remained ongoing.