VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A 12-year-old boy was fatally struck by a SUV while walking to school on Long Island, police said.
It happened at West Merrick Road and South Franklin Avenue in Valley Stream around 7:20 am. Thursday.
Zachary Ranftle, a seventh-grader at Valley Stream Memorial Junior High School, was crossing South Franklin when he was hit by a GMC Yukon, Nassau County police said.
The boy was taken to Long Island Jewish Medical Center where he died.
“I’m not going to see him anymore,” the boy’s grandmother, Evelyn Ranftle, told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.
“We’re never going to get him back, he was the greatest little boy out there,” the boy’s uncle, Paul Ranftle, said.
The driver, 29-year-old Austin Soldano, of Seaford, remained on the scene. He was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle and operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license. He pleaded not guilty and was released on bail of $10,000 bond or $5,000 cash.
His lawyer calls it an accident and says Soldano wasn’t aware his license was suspended.
As Gusoff reported, his driving privileges were previously yanked after a DWI arrest in August. His record also includes guilty pleas for DWI, disorderly conduct, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and reckless driving, CBS2 reported.
Nassau Police say Soldano did nothing criminally wrong when he crashed into the boy crossing the street, because he couldn’t see him.
“We believe the 12-year-old was standing between two utility poles and obscured the vision of the driver when he made the right,” Insp. Kenneth Lack said.
“No matter if your view is obstructed or not, if you are not supposed to be driving you shouldn’t be driving under any circumstances,” Paul Ranftle said.
Evelyn Ranftle said Soldano shouldn’t have been behind the wheel.
“I’ve got so much hate inside of me right now for this guy,” she said. “I want to go and kill him. I better not ever see him. I want my grandson, he should be here now.”
Zachary had just moved to Valley Stream and middle school faculty call him a “shining star.”
“He provided us with insight and achieved greatness with every challenge he was presented with,” the school said in a statement.
The school said grief counselors are on hand to help children cope with the tragedy.
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