12-Year-Old Girl Steers to Safety After Grandpa Dies While Driving

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Pete Picknally / Burlington County Times

Miranda Bowman, right, 12 of Burlington Township, Pa., holds a medal and plaque presented by her parents, Stephanie and Jim, honoring her for her quick actions of steering a car the safety.

Without so much as a driver’s license — or even a foot on the gas pedal — 12-year-old Miranda Bowman managed to drive off the road to safety after her grandfather died behind the wheel. Driving on a rural road in Burlington Township, N.J., last Tuesday, Paul Parker suffered what seemed to be heart failure.

According to family members, Bowman’s 63-year-old grandfather had been suffering from a heart condition. Bowman told reporters that her grandfather said he wasn’t feeling well: “[He] told me to just keep talking to him. Then he said he was scared, closed his eyes, and put his head on the glass. That’s when I knew he was dead.”

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Parker died with his foot still on the accelerator, causing the vehicle to speed up, quickly reaching 80 mph. In the intensity of the moment, Bowman struggled to unlock her cell phone to dial 911 and putting her foot on the brake couldn’t cancel out her grandfather’s heavy foot on the accelerator. She decided to grab the wheel herself and swerve off the road, aiming for bushes and trees, which she thought might safely stop the car. She modeled this attempt after what she had seen on TV, she told the Burlington County Times. According to the paper, after Bowman safely got out of the car she was “crying hysterically, barely able to breathe or recall what had just happened.”

“I thought I was going to die too,” Bowman said. “I kicked the door open and was just crying and screaming.  People must have thought I was a lunatic.”

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Quite the contrary. Bowman has been lauded for her act of bravery, which seems to run in the family. Her father has been an EMT and firefighter for 23 years, and he and Bowman’s mother plan to present Miranda with a medal of bravery. The 12-year-old’s mother, Stephanie Bowman, said that Miranda was her hero: “As much as I am upset about losing my father, I can’t even imagine how worse this could have been.”