A mother mourns her 5-year-old daughter murdered by a drunk driver

Deputies said Madeline Nichols died in a crash Friday. The driver faces several charges for driving under the influence.

LAKELAND, Fla. — Madeline Nichols of Lake Wales was excited to start kindergarten in the fall.

At just 5 years old, her mother Jacqueline Nichols said she touched the lives of those around her.

She loved going for ice cream with her grandfather and made friends everywhere she went. Described as the happiest, brave and intelligent child in the world, her mother said she dreams of becoming a veterinarian one day.

“That’s all she ever talked about,” her mother recalled.

Those dreams were dashed just after midnight Friday when the Polk County Sheriff’s Office reported that a driver whose blood alcohol level was above the legal limit collided head-on with Jacqueline Nichols’ car.

Madeline died on impact, deputies said.

RELATED: Deputies: Man arrested on DUI charges after crash that killed, 2 seriously injured

I just hope she knows how much she was loved and cared for, and that we will miss her very much,” Jacqueline said.I wish I could hug her, hug her and take her home, but it’s impossible, because of someone’s bad decision.”

In an interview with 10 Tampa Bay just minutes after being released from Lakeland Regional Hospital, Jacqueline Nichols said she wanted to share her daughter’s story to keep her memory alive.

She said she had no memory of the accident. She learned about her daughter’s death only the next day, when she woke up in the hospital.

I’ll come home and see all her stuff everywhere and I don’t know what to do,” she said.

Also in Jacqueline Nichols’ Dodge camper was Madeline’s father, Justin Jones. He is currently in hospital undergoing rehabilitation and is undergoing spine surgery.

With bruises all over her body, Jacqueline Nichols said Madeline also left behind two older siblings. They both try to deal with it and understand why it happened.

“They are 13 and 10 years old. They never dealt with it. They shouldn’t do this,” she said.

Deputies said they arrested 24-year-old Robert Harrison after he crashed his Ford F-350 into Jacqueline Nichols’ Dodge Caravan on 42nd Street NW in Auburndale. He faces several DUI charges, including DUI manslaughter.

Sheriff Grady Judd addressed last week’s fatal crash, adding that Madeline was wearing a seat belt.

“This child’s life was snuffed out and that is completely unacceptable,” Judd said.

Jacqueline Nichols said the family had just left Taco Bell, one of Madeline’s favorite places, after picking up Jones.

Now he hopes others remember to take precautions against driving under the influence, such as calling Uber or Lyft.

“Nobody’s life has to end like hers,” she said.

Her family started a GoFundMe to help with funeral and medical expenses.