New York

Victims of deadly Times Square crash identified

An 18-year-old woman was killed and the other 22 injured range in age from 13 to 72 years old
A man places flowers on a memorial to Alyssa Elsman, the young tourist killed in Times Square May 19, 2017
A man places flowers on a memorial to Alyssa Elsman, the young tourist killed in Times Square May 19, 2017

The 18-year-old woman killed by an out-of-control driver who struck nearly two dozen other pedestrians in Times Square on Thursday was identified as Alyssa Elsman, of Portage, Michigan, the NYPD said.

Elsman was killed and 22 other people, including her 13-year-old sister, were injured when the driver of a Honda drove onto a sidewalk on Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street just before noon, police said.

Elsman, a 2016 graduate of Portage Central High School in Michigan, was struck between 42nd and 43rd streets and pronounced dead at the scene, according to police.

School officials described the former student as a “wonderful person” and a “terrific young lady.”

“Our deepest sympathies go out to the Elsman family,” Portage Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bielang said in an emailed statement. “It is the most devastating kind of sad when a wonderful person in our community is lost so young, and under such heartbreaking circumstances.”

Portage Central High School Principal Eric Alburtus said Elsman was involved in the school’s culinary program and said she was an “incredible baker.”

“She would make the most wonderful muffins, and the students would sell them before school to help raise money for the program,” Alburtus said. “Alyssa was the type of person who seemed very shy and reserved when you first met her, but once you started talking to her you realized she was smart, funny and engaging. She will be deeply missed by the staff and students here.”

The school district identified Elsman’s sister as Ava, and said she attends Portage Central Middle School. Both the high school and middle school will provide grief counselors on Friday to help students and staff affected by Elsman’s death, the district said.

Details about the victims who survived the crash also began to emerge Thursday afternoon.

The city activated its Unified Victim Identification System in an effort to help loved ones reunite with those who were injured, urging anyone concerned about the welfare of someone they know to contact 311.

One of the victims who survived was 72-year-old Thomas Henry, of Queens Village, according to his daughter, Alison Henry. He suffered bruises to his face, including a large bump on his head, she said.

Thomas Henry’s nephew, Christopher Beekharry, his wife and their two children, ages 3 and 6, are visiting from Guyana and were walking with Henry on the sidewalk in Times Square when the car came at them.

“This car just come and I told my wife ‘Look, look. This car is insane,'” Beekharry said. “This guy was insane.”

Beekharry said the car crashed into a pole and the pole fell onto Henry: “When it come over, it fell on his head.”

Alison Henry said she rushed to Bellevue Medical Center after her mother called to say her father had been involved in the Times Square crash.

“I just want to see him. Once I see him I’ll be OK,” she said, adding that Beekharry’s wife was “traumatized” by the crash.

Henry was one of 13 injured who were taken to Bellevue Medical Center. Their ages ranged from 13 to 72 years old, including three teenagers.

Four of the patients were in critical condition and two were considered serious, the spokeswoman said. The injuries include pelvic fractures, internal bleeding, head injuries and broken teeth.
William Nelson Jr. said his father, 64-year-old William Nelson Sr., suffered a head injury and a leg injury. He was found lying on the ground by 43rd Street, his son said.

By Thursday evening, William Nelson Jr. said his father was awake and able to squeeze his hand and wiggle his toes.

“It’s really hard for both of us right now,” he said, adding he and his sister recently lost their mother. “It’s a small family.”

Nelson Sr., he said, is a retired teacher. The family is from Park Slope.

Nine others were rushed to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center for treatment.

The man behind the wheel, 26-year-old Richard Rojas, of the Bronx, is a Navy veteran with a criminal past, including two DWI arrests, according to officials.

Rojas’ test for alcohol came back negative, a police source said, but investigators were testing him for other substances.

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