MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) - A seven-year-old girl who slipped into a coma after being hit by a stray bullet on New Year's Eve has died, a doctor at the East Avenue Medical Center said Wednesday.
Dr. Emmanuel "Bong" Bueno confirmed Stephanie Nicole Ella passed away at 2:26 pm Wednesday.
The girl's father earlier said the entire family was watching fireworks outside their house in Caloocan on New Year's Eve when Stephanie was hit by a stray bullet on the head. Doctors said the girl suffered 5 cardiac arrests and had slipped into a coma while inside the hospital.
Before she died, the entire family was still praying for a miracle that will save the child's life.
Her uncle, Marvin, said Stephanie was an honors student.
“Pag dadating ako, bilang tiyuhin niya sasalubong, mamano, mangungulit. At saka sa eskwelahan napakasipag. Di nawawala sa honor, top 1, top 2. Nilalaban po yan sa quiz bee sa school nila,” he told radio DZMM.
Her father, Jay, said Stephanie had big dreams for the family.
"Malikot din, makulit, isang masayahing bata. 'Pag sinuway mo titigil. Mahilig mag-aral, magbasa, magdrawing. Madalas niyang binabanggit sa akin 'yung pangarap niyang yumaman. 'Yun ang focus niya, yumaman para makatulong sa amin," he said.
Jay said no other child deserved to suffer injury or death from stray bullets.
"Sana sa susunod na taon wala nang Nicole na tamaan, wala nang kagaya ni Nicole na batang paslit na wala namang kaalam-alam eh bigla na lang tatamaan ng bala, masisira ang buhay dahil sa kalokohan ng iilan," he said.
Nicole's death 'a tragedy'
The Aquino administration on Wednesday said Stephanie Nicole's death was a tragedy. It extended its sympathies to the girl's family.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the entire nation is coming together in grief over Ella's death.
"Today, our nation comes together in grief. Stephanie Nicole Ella has passed away. She was only seven years old when she suffered a fatal head injury after being hit by a stray bullet on New Year’s Eve. Together with the Filipino people, we extend our deepest sympathies to Stephanie’s family. No one should experience the overwhelming heartbreak that her family is now enduring, especially during a season of celebration and hope."
He added: "This tragedy is a sobering reminder of how a reprehensible act from a thoughtless individual can rob our people, particularly our children, of their futures. For such a promising life to be lost in such a senseless way puts the burden on all of us to make certain that this tragedy is not repeated. We continue to call on all Filipinos: Let us consider the welfare of our countrymen by engaging in celebrations in a responsible and safe manner."
The Philippine National Police said it has recorded 40 incidents of stray bullets nationwide during the New Year revelry. PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo told radio dzMM police have arrested at least 18 suspects for indiscriminate firing of their guns.
Twelve of the suspects come from Metro Manila, he said.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona earlier urged the public for a culture change by refraining from the use of powerful firecrackers and firing guns to celebrate the New Year.