12-Year-Old Girl Grabs Wheel When Grandpa Dies Driving, Avoids Crash At 80 MPH

12-year-old girl Miranda Bowman had to think quickly over the weekend on a day trip, grabbing the wheel and steering off into some bushes when her grandfather died with his foot on the accelerator.

The pre-teen Bowman is probably still in shock from the traumatic event, one that occurred after she’d spent the day go-karting with her grandpa, 63-year-old Paul Parker. The pair had a fun day, but when they returned home from New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, in Cumberland County, tragedy struck — although Miranda Bowman’s mom is grateful that her daughter’s quick thinking prevented the situation from being far worse.

The situation is hard for the 12-year-old girl who grabbed the wheel from her dying grandpa, but it’s also very, very difficult for her mom, Stephanie Bowman. The elder Bowman, who is Parker’s daughter, is wrestling with the dual emotions of gratitude for her daughter’s quick thinking and safety, and grief at the sudden loss of her own dad.

Bowman calls her daughter “my hero” and says that while “you can’t imagine how proud [she] is of [Miranda],” she is still unsettled by how badly the accident could have turned out:

“As much as I am upset about losing my father, I can’t even imagine how worse this could have been.”

And indeed, the 12-year-old girl faced a situation that got very scary very quickly — handling it far more proactively than many adults might:

“He said he didn’t feel well and 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.”

Parker had a chronic heart condition, some family members say, and experienced heart failure at the wheel. A local paper describes what happened next:

“At first, Miranda had no idea what to do when the speedometer began to rise, peaking at 80 mph, as the car barreled down Buckshutem Road in Millville. She tried to dial 911, but in the heat of moment, couldn’t unlock her cellphone.”

Miranda told the paper that she thought for a moment that she wouldn’t be able to avoid a terrible collision as the vehicle sped down the road:

“I thought I was going to die too… I didn’t know what to do. I took off my seat belt and slid over to put my foot on the brake, but I couldn’t stop it.”

Miranda looked and determined that since no traffic was oncoming, crashing the car into some shrubbery was probably the best course of action — she explains:

“It sounds weird, but I saw people do this on TV… The car just kept running over bushes and trees. I ducked down and covered my head.”

Bowman says she exited the vehicle “crying and screaming,” and that she felt like a “lunatic” after the trauma. And while her parents are extremely proud of the young girl, she also says she can’t get back in a car yet — that the frightening incident keeps looping through her mind.