PALM HARBOR, Florida (WFLA) -- The mother of a 2-year-old Palm Harbor girl whose feet were amputated by a riding mower says the accident won't stop her daughter from succeeding in life.
"I have to be strong for my daughter," said Nicole Nugent. "I'm sad, but she needs me more than I need to be sad right now."
Pinellas County deputies say Ireland Nugent's father, Jeremiah Nugent, was mowing the lawn Wednesday evening when he accidentally backed over his 2-year-old daughter. The family says Ireland ran up behind him on the mower as he was backing up in the front yard of their Palm Harbor home.
"He couldn't hear her because the lawnmower was going," Nicole said. "She wanted her daddy."
Nugent spoke in Tampa General Hospital's rose garden with her husband Jeremiah's hands on her shoulders, and the pastor of their church next to them. She said her husband has been broken since the accident. Paramedics treated both of them for hysteria after it happened.
"I am questioning why that wasn't me, why it had to be her," Nicole said as her voice broke.
She said the mower dragged Ireland and pinned her. The mower severed her feet at the ankles. It punctured her left hand and broke her thumb. Her right leg is also fractured above the calf and will likely require skin grafts.
Nicole, who is a preschool director at Trinity Presbyterian in Clearwater and her husband, who's an employee for Pinellas County, are drawing strength from their faith.
"God is in everything and he is watching over her," Nicole said. "He is with her in every procedure and I don't know if we could've gotten out of this without our faith."
She says two neighbors, Ally and Cameron Smith, ran to help. Ally, a nurse, helped stabilize Ireland until paramedics arrived.
"She saved my daughter's life," Nicole said.
Dennis Reid, pastor of the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Clearwater, said a group called 50 Legs has already promised to help.
"They are committed to providing Ireland with the best available prosthetics for the rest of her life," Reid said.
Reid says Ireland has undergone two surgeries, and will need several more. Her next surgery is scheduled for Saturday, when her wounds will be cleaned again. Doctors expect to perform a final surgery Monday, when they'll close Ireland's wounds.
"She will continue to succeed. She will do great things," Nicole said. "This is not going to stop Ireland. Of all the children in the world, it will not stop my daughter."
She also warned other parents to be careful.
"Never in my life did I think this could happen with my child. We're so cautious with pool gates, locks and everything on our doors. We have all the knob protectors; medicine locks," she said. "Don't lawn mow when your kids are home. Don't do it. It's not worth it."
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