FAIRFAX, Va. - A 12-year old boy was hospitalized after police said he attempted to commit suicide by jumping off a highway overpass, but instead caused the death of a Maryland woman who was driving on Interstate 66 in Fairfax County on Saturday.
The victim was identified as 22-year-old Marisa Harris, of Olney, a graduate student at Marymount University studying clinical mental health counseling.
Investigators said they responded to the scene at about 4:15 p.m. after the boy jumped from the Cedar Lane overpass in Vienna and onto Harris’ 2005 Ford Escape as she was driving eastbound.
Officials said Harris’ boyfriend, who was in the passenger seat, was able to take control of the wheel and steer it off the interstate.
Harris’ boyfriend was not injured, but police said she was killed on impact. The boy was rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Marymount University officials said Harris was a first-year graduate student studying clinical psychology and wanted to help children.
“Perhaps one of the largest impacts of this tragedy will be the loss of the positive impact that she would have had on others,” the university said in part of a written statement.
Harris graduated from Towson University with summa cum laude honors and was a 2013 graduate of Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring.
Officials said suicide rates continue to rise, which is why Fairfax County has established a 24/7 crisis hotline and programs to help train community members and school staff about recognizing the signs of suicide.
“What we’re seeing in recent years of the survey is that the number of young people who are considering suicide, who actually have those thoughts, has risen, so there is a lot of work as far as getting people to talk and getting adults to know what to look for,” Lucy Caldwell with the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board explained.
Marymount University officials said support professionals had been made available to students and staff. They also said an on-campus memorial was being planned for a later date.