LINDENHURST, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The daughter of a woman killed in a Mother’s Day crash in Suffolk County, was heartbroken to find out that her mother died while pushing her out of the way.
Suffolk County police said around 9:10 a.m. Sunday, Diane Aluska, 53, and her 16-year-old daughter, Jenna, were walking on the sidewalk in front of 225 South Wellwood Ave. between East Hoffman and East Gates avenues in Lindenhurst.
They were struck by a 2005 Toyota Corolla whose driver was backing out of a diagonal parking space, police said.
“She had thought that she had put it in drive,” Suffolk Police Detective Sergeant James Murphy said of 80-year-old Ann Riolo. “She left it in reverse, hit the gas, started speeding backwards, lost control, and jumped the sidewalk.”
Diane Aluska was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip where she was pronounced dead, police said. Jenna Aluska and Riolo were taken to the same hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff spoke exclusively with Diane Aluska’s husband and Jenna’s father, Kenneth Aluska. He said his daughter was doing as well as could be expected – but on Monday morning, he had to do the unthinkable and tell her that her mother had died.
“I just told her her mother is dead. I had to wait until after her surgery. She couldn’t be devastated right before her surgery. She was heartbroken,” he told reporters earlier.
He said he briefly returned home to retrieve a notebook for Jenn, who hopes to one day become a journalist.
“She asked me to bring her notebook. She’s in the middle of writing a book. She wants to go to college for it,” he said.
Upon returning from the hospital, he said his wife had saved their daughter’s life.
“She loved her kids she lived her life for her children,” he said.
Kenneth Aluska was out buying Mother’s Day flowers for his wife when the accident happened. He said his wife had taken their daughter to 8 a.m. Sunday mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and the out-of-control car slammed into them moments after they left the church.
“I rushed over to the firehouse where she was laying, and, but she didn’t remember; you know, she was crying for her mom,” Kenneth Aluska told Gusoff.
The owner of the bakery next door on South Wellwood Avenue said his surveillance video, which the family asked not be made public, clearly shows the mothers selfless final act.
“The mom was hands down a hero. As the car was backing in, the last second, the mom grabbed the daughter and threw her out of the way – and gave her the whole the sacrifice of her life,” said bakery owner Joe Biggs. “So she saved her daughter’s life on Mother’s Day. True hero.”
“It’s a terrible tragedy,” said Monsignor Joseph DeGrocco of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. “There are no words. The best we do is be present for them.”
Flags were lowered Monday at Babylon Town Hall, where Diane Aluska – a breast cancer survivor — was a beloved public servant for 16 years in the town clerk’s office.
“Everyone knew her as the glue that held the office together,” said Babylon Town Supervisor Schaffer. “She was funny.”
CBS2’s Gusoff asked Ken Aluska if his wife’s instinct to put her daughter’s life before her was to surprised him. He said it did not at all.
“Any good parent would do the same thing for their child,” he said.
When asked what people could do for him, he said: “Support – you know, I mean, nobody should ever have to go through this. It’s very difficult.”
Jenna Aluska was still hospitalized Monday after spinal surgery. The physical recovery will require follow-up operations.
Her father asked the community to remember Diane Aluska as a beautiful person who loved life and her family.
No charges have been filed in the case, and there has been no response to the driver. Police classified it all as a tragic accident, and said Riolo seems to put her car into reverse by mistake.