A small Kentucky town is reeling after a 9-year-old was killed in a freak bike accident on her birthday.
Charlene “Charlie” Sipes was cycling near her home in Hodgenville, Kentucky, on Sept. 17 when she lost control and fell, her mother, Tiffany Fischer, told TODAY Parents. According to Larue County Sheriff Russell McCoy, the handlebar brake hit the third grader's neck, severing an artery. (The family is still waiting on an official coroner's report.)
Sipes was already dead when McCoy arrived at the scene.
Just hours before the fatal accident, Fischer and her fiancé, John Sipes Jr., surprised their daughter with a Paris-themed bedroom makeover. Fischer recalled how her daughter's face lit up when she saw the renovation, which included an Eiffel Tower lamp, a loft bed and twinkling lights.
“Charlie was so excited,” Fischer, 29, told TODAY Parents. "She said it was the best birthday ever."
The little girl dreamed of visiting France with her family after seeing the city in a Disney Channel show. “She was totally infatuated with Paris,” Fischer said, noting that she is thinking about scattering her daughter’s ashes there one day.
“I want to keep her close to us for now, though,” Fischer said.
As Fischer grieves the loss of her only child, she is urging other parents to take photos and hold on to mementos like letters and artwork. "I didn't want to be a packrat," she said. "I wish I had saved more." Fisher is grateful she still has Charlie's favorite stuffed animal, Mr. Lion.
"He made her feel so safe," she said. "So, I've been babysitting him."
Fischer also is finding comfort in hearing others' stories and memories of her little girl.
“Charlie was a bright, shining star,” her uncle Matt Plouvier told TODAY Parents. “If you were sad, she would find some way to make you smile. She’d tell a joke or make a silly face. She was the best kid.”