LEVITTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Devastated family members on Monday were urging a hit-and-run driver to come forward, after a 13-year-old girl with special needs was killed while crossing a street in Levittown, Long Island this past weekend.
As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, the search continued Monday for the driver who took the life of Bryanna Soplin, who had Down syndrome, and was crossing Hempstead Turnpike at Gardiners Avenue when she was hit by a minivan just after midnight Sunday morning.
“Maybe they won’t go to jail, but someday, sometime, they will probably have to go through my pain,” said Bryanna’s mother, Jennifer Curuchaga.
Curuchaga begged for the offending driver to surrender.
“Everyone who ever knew Bryanna, knew and was sure Bryanna was the best thing that ever happened to their life,” Curuchaga said.
Bryanna had been tucked into bed Saturday night.
“She said, ‘Mommy, good night;’ I put her to bed,” Curuchaga said.
But after midnight, Bryanna was discovered missing.
“I looked – she wasn’t there,” Curuchaga said.
Curuchaga called police, and moments later, Bryanna was dead, hit by a car on the Hempstead Turnpike at Gardiners Avenue in Levittown. Police believe the driver ran a red light, struck Bryanna, and just kept going.
First responders performed CPR on Bryanna after she was struck, but to no avail, Curuchaga said. The girl was taken to a hospital, where she died hours later, police said.
“She’s my life. She’s my oxygen. She’s my oxygen,” said Bryanna’s grandmother, Patricia Curuchaga. “I can’t believe it.”
In the aftermath of the tragedy, the heartbroken family was agonizing over the circumstances. She apparently sneaked out of a back door, and family members believe she was trying to walk to her grandfather’s house nearly two miles away at the time of the incident, WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reported.
Witnesses claimed they saw Bryanna knock on the door of a closing business, but she was turned away.
“They just closed the door and said, ‘We’re closed,’ and she turned around kept on walking,” Curuchaga said.
At Wisdom Lane Middle School, grief counselors were helping to cope with the loss of a sixth grader who, in the words of Levittown School District Supt. Dr. James Gorssane, “was always smiling and had a zest for life… and …lit up the room.”
Tragedy is a familiar word on the six-lane stretch of the Hempstead Turnpike where Bryanna was killed. The stretch is known for crashes, and in April, a supermarket worker was killed crossing the same Gardiners Avenue intersection.
“It is tragic and they should do something with Hempstead Turnpike,” Levittown parent Kelly Turk said. “Everybody gets killed on that turnpike and it’s disgusting.”
“It really scares me,” Levittown resident Sharon Pinner said.
The driver who struck Bryanna was last seen going east on Hempstead Turnpike before turning north onto the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway, police said. The vehicle is described as a 2011 to 2013 blue Town and Country minivan.
Police are asking anyone with information to call (800) 244-TIPS. The family is offering a $5,000 reward for any information.
A wake for Bryanna will be held Wednesday in Bethpage.
Safety upgrades are under way on Hempstead Turnpike, but may take years to implement through a 16-mile stretch.
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