Suspected Driver Brian McGurk Turns Himself In, Could Face Upgraded Charges

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A suspect has surrendered to police in connection with a hit-and-run that left a Staten Island grandmother dead.

The incident took place on a night marking the start of Easter weekend. Clara Almazo’s life came to a horrible end on Holy Thursday just around the corner from Mount Carmel Church, where she had been observing the holiday with her 8-year-old grandson, Brian.

They were walking home from services when police say she was struck by a driver at the intersection of Elizabeth Street and Cary Avenue, mere feet away from her home.

Witnesses said a speeding SUV turned the corner at the intersection and lost control. Almazo, 57, saw the car careening in her direction, grabbed her young grandson, Brian Ramirez, by the arm, and in her last act of selflessness pulled him out of the way.

Ramirez spent the night at the hospital after suffering a broken leg. Almazo was rushed to Richmond University Hospital, where she died.

Her 10 children were inconsolable Friday over the loss of their mother. CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey spoke with the family.

“Anything we tell them they can’t calm down,” said Magdaleno Almazo, the victim’s nephew. “They realize that she’s not coming back home.”

“All I could hear was screams from the victim’s family. The victim was old, an old lady. Then I saw the boy in the corner. He was scared and traumatized,” said witness Gustavo Siera. “She was just knocked out on the floor and the ambulance picked her up.”

“It sounded like it was a car accident,” added witness Jeanette Romero.

Romero heard the impact and ran outside to the aftermath. The tragedy was captured on her home surveillance camera, which shows Almazo trying to push the boy out of the way.

“Not as far as she wanted to and that’s why the grandson got hurt a little bit, but it shows she tried to save his life, and she did,” Romero said.

The driver, 40-year-old Brian McGurk, turned himself in to police around 3:30 a.m. Friday. McGurk has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident, but the charges will likely be upgraded. Bail for the suspect was set at $50,000.

He hid his face after being arraigned Friday. His SUV, with considerable front-end damage, was towed away by police.

“It was a really bad impact. Really dramatic and very graphic,” Romero said.

“It’s hard because she’s my mama,” said Emilio Herrera, the victim’s eldest son. “I see mama on the floor. I tried to help her, but she was dead.”

1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg with the victim’s son

An undated personal photo of Clara Almazo with her family (credit: Handout via CBS 2)

Almazo’s family said they were relieved to hear there was an arrest made.

“I’m making sure that guy is going to stay for the rest of his life in that jail,” Herrera said. “It’s hard for me because I love my mother. Who’s going to give me my mommy back? Nobody.”

People in Almazo’s neighborhood describe her as a doting grandmother who came to this country from Oaxaca, Mexico. Now she is being hailed as a hero for saving her grandson’s life.

Almazo was survived by 10 children, 10 grandchildren and her husband, who was in Mexico visiting his sick parents when she was killed.

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