Victims of deadly Times Square crash identified

GoFundMe fundraiser set up for the parents of the 18-year-old woman killed in the Times Square crash on Thursday continues to grow after donations surpassed the $10,000 goal in just over 24 hours.

Alyssa Elsman, of Portage, Michigan, was fatally struck on Seventh Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets when Richard Rojas drove his Honda onto a sidewalk and sped into a crowd just before noon, police said.

A small memorial made up of flowers and photographs of Elsman and a stuffed teddy bear sprouted up on Friday near the site of where she was killed.

Her 13-year-old sister, identified as Ava Elsman by middle school officials, was among the 20 other pedestrians who were injured in the crash that spanned three blocks. She remained in critical condition on Friday with a collapsed lung and broken pelvis, NYPD Chief of Manhattan South Detectives William Aubry said at a news conference.

Amy Elsman Ryman, who identified herself as a cousin to the girls’ mother, said she initially hoped to collect $5,000 in donations to help the parents as they cope with Alyssa’s death and deal with Ava’s medical bills. But as donations poured in and the original goal was swiftly met, Ryman upped the challenge to $10,000.

“Please keep them all in your thoughts,” she wrote on the fundraising page.

Alyssa Elsman graduated from Portage Central High School in 2016, school officials said in a statement released on Thursday. Administrators described their 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 said Ava Elsman attends Portage Central Middle School. Both the high school and middle school provided 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 have also emerged.

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, were visiting from Guyana and were with Henry in Times Square when the car came speeding toward 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. 

Six people remained hospitalized, officials said Sunday. Of the 13 patients received at Bellevue in Manhattan on Thursday, seven have been discharged, Bellevue spokeswoman Evelyn Hernandez said Sunday. Two are in critical condition; four are in serious and stable condition, she 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.

The other victims were treated at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center.

Rojas, 26, of the Bronx, is a Navy veteran with a criminal past, including two DWI arrests, according to officials. He was arraigned Friday on a slew of charges, including second-degree murder. 

Rojas told investigators he smoked marijuana laced with PCP before the crash, according to a criminal complaint. Police are awaiting the results of blood tests that will determine whether he was on drugs at the time.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday that Rojas’ family told police he had been struggling with mental health issues dating back to his childhood.

With Reuters, Nicole Fuller