LEVITTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Police Sunday evening were searching for a driver who struck and killed a 13-year-old girl in Levittown, Long Island, and drove off.
As CBS 2’s Alice Gainer reported, Bryanna Soplin, 13, who had Down syndrome, unknowingly left her family’s home nearby. She was crossing Hempstead Turnpike at Gardiners Avenue in Levittown was hit by a minivan headed eastward just after midnight, 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern reported.
Bryanna was taken to a hospital, where she died about 4 1/2 hours later, the Nassau County Police Department said.
Bryanna’s mother was horrified by the incident and the fact that the driver sped off.
“He was a coward, that the person had no feelings; that they ran away and leaving my little girl on her own,” said Bryanna’s mother, Jennifer Curuchaga.
The driver didn’t stop and was last seen going east on Hempstead Turnpike and then turning north onto the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway, police said. The vehicle is described as a 2011 to 2013 blue Town and Country minivan.
“The witnesses were saying Bryanna was standing at the light once it turned red. She started crossing. She got half of it, and the guy just passed a red light and he kept going without stopping,” Curuchaga said, “and she’s dead.”
Bryanna spent Saturday swimming with her two sisters and brother, and that night, they asked to play with their iPads in their rooms. But Curuchaga said she had a strange feeling, and that was when she noticed Bryanna had left.
The family noticed Bryanna was missing late Saturday night.
“My dad was driving around there to look for her. There was no accident when they passed there at first,” Curuchaga said. “Her friend lives around the corner. So my dad had a feeling that she might have wanted to go see him. He went back and then he saw the police and ambulance and everything there.”
First responders began CPR, but to no avail, Curuchaga said.
“The damage was so bad they couldn’t save her. She had broken arms, broken legs, broken pelvis, broken neck, broken spine — she didn’t have any oxygen going into her brain,” Curuchaga said, “and I just told them to let her rest.”
But the family will not rest until the driver is found.
“She was a happy girl that made everybody smile. She had no hate in herself; she only knew how to give love,” Curuchaga said. “I just want her back. I want her back.”
The intersection has claimed many lives over the years. For residents such as Marie of Levittown, it was one more sad story along a dangerous road.
“I work at King Kullen, and the gentleman just recently got hit and killed by a car that went through the light right over here and got killed,” she said. “He was 80 years old – never had any health issues, nothing.”
Another longtime resident said the Hempstead Turnpike was easier to cross back when there was a concrete median, and even then it was dangerous.
Police Sunday night were looking at security camera footage from the intersection where the hit-and-run happened. And as the family grieved for the 13-year-old who loved basketball, school and karate, they also had a message for the driver.
“To just give themselves in,” Curuchaga said. “The guy will never forget what they did to her.”
A wake for Bryanna will be held Wednesday in Bethpage. The family is offering a $5,000 reward for any information.
Police are asking anyone with information to call (800) 244-TIPS.
John Johnson was crossing Montauk Highway at South 13th Street with his mother around 8:30 p.m. Saturday, when he was struck by a 2008 Toyota Scion headed west on the highway, Suffolk County police said. John was reported in critical condition afterward.
The driver in that incident remained at the scene.
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