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Mourners bid farewell to girl killed in suspected DWI crash

By WCTI Staff
Published On: Feb 22 2013 03:55:00 PM CST
Updated On: Mar 05 2013 06:32:56 PM CST
BRIDGETON, CRAVEN COUNTY -

Family and friends gathered Tuesday morning to say their goodbyes to Alanna Garris, the 6-year-old girl killed in a head-on crash in which her mother was charged with DWI.

Alanna's funeral was held at Bridgeton Pentecostal Holiness Church at 11 a.m. Tuesday. The girl's family invited NewsChannel 12 in, but out of respect for the family, cameras were left out.

Loved ones wore pink, Alanna's favorite color, during the funeral. Several pink bouquet of flowers surrounded a small white casket. Placed above it-- a picture of Alanna dressed as a princess.

A recording of her singing brought many to tears.

"[Her voice] was so precious and we all know now she's going to be with the Lord," said Jean Phillips, a family friend

Alanna died on Friday, Feb. 22, after the car she was riding in went left of the center line and crashed head-on into an SUV on Brices Creek Road in New Bern, troopers said. Alanna's mother, 24-year-old Amber Sandvig, has been charged with DWI in the crash.  Alanna's 2-year-old brother, Allen "Blaze" Garris, was injured.

"[Alanna's] smile will be missed. She had such a great personality,” said Marisa Drabek,  Alanna's teacher at Brinson Elementary School in New Bern. “She had a knack for knowing just when someone needed an extra special hug. That is something I will definitely miss from her.”

Drabek said she remembered her last goodbye to Alanna, just hours before the accident happened.

“Every time they walk out of my classroom you can either give a high five or a hug. And that's how we ended it, with me giving her a hug," Drabek said.

Brinson Elementary has had counselors on hand to help students cope with the Alanna's death, said Drabek. Members of the school will plant a Japanese blossom tree to pay tribute to the 6-year-old. Brinson Elementary is also planning to dedicate the yearbook to Alanna, as well as wear pink ribbons in honor of her favorite color.

Alanna's 2-year-old brother, 'Blaze,' suffered a broken hip and leg in the wreck. He has since been released from the hospital and put into foster care. At last check, their mother, Amber Sandvig, was still at the hospital recovering from the crash.

Alanna's family also shared their memories of the 6-year-old.

"You can look at her: nobody ever came in contact with her that didn't love her," said Joyce Taylor of her late granddaughter. "She was just a beautiful child who didn't deserve this."

Joyce said she was right there with her granddaughter at the hospital when she died.

"She looked like she was sleeping," Joyce said. "We just wanted her to wake up."

A woman who lives near the accident scene told NewsChannel 12 that the children's mother was screaming for help after the wreck happened.

"I got out the door and I heard a woman yelling, 'Save my babies,' at the top of her lungs,"said Brenda O'Quinn.  "[She was saying,] 'God, please help my babies.'"

In addition to DWI, Sandvig was also charged with traveling to center line and child restraint for the wreck that killed her 6-year-old daughter. According to troopers, the girl had the seat belt behind her back

The wreck at Brices Creek Road was not the first incident in which Amber was charged with driving while intoxicated. According to court documents, she was charged in January, 2012 with DWI, failure to maintain lane control and misdemeanor child abuse.

Sandvig's father explained to NewsChannel 12 the prior DWI charge, stemming from a crash that happened on the Twin River Bridge in Craven County. 

"[Amber] collided with one of the barriers on an off ramp," said Michael Sandvig, Amber's father. "Horrible accident; she walked away from it. 'Blaze' came out of it with just an abrasion mark from the seat belt."

Amber was also charged last month with possession of drug paraphernalia. Michael Sandvig said he does not deny that his daughter has a problem with drugs. According to him, over the past year, Amber's been prescribed Precocet and Klonopin.

Michael said despite all this, he will still have his daughter's back.

"I'm angry at a lot of things," Michael said. "But she is my daughter and I love her, and I have to support her right now."

The two adults in the Cadillac that Amber allegedly hit on Brices Creek road were also taken to a hospital. Michael Payne was treated and released, and at last check, Julia Payne was still at the hospital.

Speed was not a factor in the wreck, according to officials.