Clover girl, 5, who died in crash remembered as a 'ball of sunshine'

The rosy-cheeked girl’s blue eyes sparkled with life.

She shared a “kindred soul” with animals – even bugs – and would play with any critter that had “fins, scales, fur or paws.”

Her aunt, Mari Ross, described Emily Ross as a “ball of sunshine” and a “social butterfly.” Her great aunt, Mary Escamilla, said she was full of “life, determination and love... just what a child ought to be.”

Emily Paige Ross, 5, formerly of Clover died Monday after suffering fatal injuries in a car accident in central Georgia.

“She was wonderful, she never met a stranger,” said Christina Griffith, Emily’s mother. Griffith is still recovering from injuries suffered in that crash.

Troopers say mother and daughter were injured when the 2000 Honda Civic they were in collided with a Nissan Pathfinder after Griffith allegedly ran a stop sign. Emily died of her injuries at a Macon, Ga. hospital.

The crash is being investigated and no charges have been filed in connection with the incident.

Born Feb. 28, 2009, Emily spent her life in Clover until about a month ago, relatives said, when she and Griffith moved to North Carolina.

After Emily died, family friend Nicole Hewett created a fundraising site to help Griffith pay for her daughter’s burial. The goal was $6,000. By Saturday evening, more than $5,100 had been raised and the cost of the burial was covered. Any remaining donated money will be used to help pay Griffith’s medical bills.

“Everyone’s sad... upset that she’s gone,” said Kisha Rathbone, who watched Emily everyday. “She was just wonderful... very loved.”

Emily was very close with her “maw-maw” and “paw-paw,” said Wendy Drake, her grandmother. “Everybody knows how good she is.”

She “always had a spark in her eyes, a sparkle in her face,” said her great aunt Escamilla.

“Some souls are too beautiful... too good for this world,” Escamilla said. “Em’s was just one.”

Escamilla’s words foreshadowed a message by Pastor Steve Oates who encouraged mourners that “Emily will never have to suffer heartache, disappointment or loss.”

“She’s in heaven today, right now,” he said. “She’s enjoying the very presence of her creator, her maker, her God. Emily realizes now heaven is a real place.”

Emily walked with a “bebop” in her step and “music in her soul,” Mari Ross said. She liked the Little Mermaid and, though very girly – she enjoyed dressing up like a princess – she was among the first in her family to jump on a dirt bike and play in the mud, “and she’d be wearing a dress.”

“She was a spitfire” whose life “was perfect to her,” Ross said.

She would “squinch“ her nose like a “chipmunk” when she laughed or was angry. But, when she was upset, it was never long. And, if the people around her weren’t smiling, she’d make sure to leave them with one, Mari Ross said.

Emily's love for animals extended to her aunt's six dogs and a pet Box turtle she rescued. Emily named the reptile "Carlos."

The day of the accident, Mari Ross and her family returned home from dinner to find Carlos dead.

"Emily, she took him with her," Mari Ross said. "She wasn't going to leave him."