NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A makeshift memorial continues to grow for the 18-year-old woman killed in last week’s Times Square crash.
A concrete barrier at the scene remains covered with notes and tributes to Alyssa Elsman, whose 13-year-old sister was also among the more than 20 hurt Thursday.
The centerpiece of the memorial is a framed letter from Elsman’s father, Tom Elsman.
Beginning with “there are no words to express our gratitude,” he thanked the NYPD and the city for the outpouring of support and sympathy.
“Alyssa loved this city, she loved Times Square, she would appreciate all your kind words but she would also tell us all to get back up and continue,” he wrote.
Closing his letter to his oldest daughter, Elsman said: “My world changed when you came into it and it is unexplainable with you leaving it. I love you kid. Just no words. Love you, love you, love you. Dad. ”
Hundreds of people have signed their names on the concrete barrier and left stuffed animals, flowers and candles.
“She had a long life ahead of her and it was just cut short unfortunately,” Brooklyn resident Kim Spears told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell. “I just think it’s terrible.”
Another man visiting from Switzerland said sadly, this is today’s reality, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.
“I think we have to live with it and do everything that protects ourselves from it,” he said.
The man investigators say is responsible is 26-year-old Richard Rojas, who is facing charges including second-degree murder and 20 counts of attempted murder and vehicle homicide.
Rojas, who authorities said tested positive for marijuana and PCP, spoke exclusively with the New York Post from his Rikers Island jail cell, telling the paper he has no recollection of the crash.
“The last thing I remember is driving my car,” he said. “Then, I woke up in the precinct. I was terrified.”
He added: “I just want to apologize to all the victims’ families. I want to apologize to my mom.”
Around noon last Thursday, police said Rojas sped his car down Seventh Avenue before making a sharp U-turn and jumping the curb at 42nd Street, where the first person was hit.
“He continues on from 42nd to 43rd, accelerating. He continues onto 44th, 45th, he actually goes underneath a scaffold,” William Aubry, NYPD’s chief of Manhattan South detectives, said last week. “Parts of his car, the side-view mirror, license plates are falling off as he’s striking these pedestrians. People are being dragged. They’re on top of the car.”
The vehicle eventually stopped on top of a metal barrier before bursting into flames. Rojas was knocked to the ground by a nearby restaurant bouncer, who with others helped hold him until police took him away.
More than 20 people were also injured in the crash.
In court Friday, prosecutors said Rojas told police that he “wanted to kill them.” He didn’t enter a plea and is due back in court this week.
Meanwhile, new safety barriers remain in place around the busy pedestrian areas of Times Square that were put in place after the crash.
Elsman’s relatives have set up a GoFundMe page which has raised more than $11,000 for her funeral and her sister’s hospital bills.
Four of the victims remain in critical condition.