Thursday, May 30, 2024

Brooklyn woman killed by hit-and-run driver fleeing cops was shopping for grandson’s birthday

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The 71-year-old Brooklyn woman killed by a driver who was fleeing cops Thursday was running an errand for her 17-year-old grandson’s birthday with her daughter, her brokenhearted family said.

Juanita Vidal was struck along with her daughter in Bushwick at about 5 p.m., just around the corner from where she lived. She was taken to Wyckoff Hospital but could not be saved. Jessica Vidal, 44, is in stable condition.

“It was my son’s birthday,” said Juan Fernandez, Jessica’s husband. “I don’t know if they were there to get food or a toy.”

Officers from the 83rd precinct had attempted to conduct a vehicle stop for a traffic infraction at Eldert St. and Wilson Ave. when a blue Mazda CX-5 with Massachusetts plates fled, police said Friday. The Mazda took off northbound on Eldert St., said police, then blew through two stop signs a block away at the intersection of Knickerbocker Ave. and Eldert St.

The vehicle swerved to the left to avoid another car traveling westbound on Knickerbocker Ave. when it struck the women, said police.

The officers had pursued the vehicle and lost sight of it before spotting it again a few minutes later. Before cops could turn on the lights on their car the Vidals had been hit, police said.

It wasn’t immediately disclosed why police were trying to pull the man over.

Video obtained by the Daily News shows a pedestrian scurry out of the crosswalk and a red sedan slam on its brakes as the hit-and-run driver streaks through the intersection of Eldert St. and Knickerbocker Ave. with a marked NYPD vehicle following through the intersection.

The driver abandoned the totaled Mazda, ran about two blocks into the Halsey St. subway station and hopped on an L train, police sources said.

Courtesy of Juan Fernandez

Juanita Vidal, 71, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver fleeing police in Brooklyn Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Juan Fernandez)

“We tried to cross the street and we realized the car wasn’t stopping at the stop sign. So we tried to go back or forward,” Jessica Vidal told the Daily News, wincing in pain from her bed at Elmhurst Hospital. “It was so fast. It was like we got shocked.”

“We got struck. After that all I remember is me on the floor and a bunch of people around me. That’s all I remember,” said Jessica.

The younger woman has seven broken ribs and a ruptured lung, she said.

“She helped everybody. She’s friends with everybody around the neighborhood,” Fernandez said of his mother-in-law, who is from Puerto Rico and had six children.

“Everybody loved her a lot. This is shocking for everybody.”

Fernandez waited to tell his wife her mother had been killed because she was medicated, he said.

“Now she knows her mother passed away right next to her. She was going to go alone, and the mother said, ‘I don’t want you to go by yourself.’ That makes Jessica feel a little guilty. I was trying to explain to her it could have been anybody. It could have been our kids walking with her.”

A neighbor called Fernandez in tears to notify him of the crash. He rushed to the scene to find his wife being comforted by a police officer as first responders attempted in vain to resuscitate his mother-in-law.

“They were giving her CPR. Her eyes were open, her tongue was sticking out,” he said.

Despite struggling to breathe through her perforated lung, Jessica screamed for her mother at the scene.

“She was screaming, ‘My mom, my mom,’” Fernandez recounted. “Her mom was everything to her.”

The older woman was between the hit-and-run driver’s car and her daughter and suffered the brunt of the collision, according to Fernandez. Doctors told Fernandez that both his mother-in-law’s pelvis and spine were broken and that one of her arms was virtually destroyed in the crash.

Jessica and her mother checked to make sure that no cars were coming before they entered the crosswalk, a testament to how fast the killer’s car was moving, according to Fernandez.

“There was no way they could get away because of the speed of the car,” said Fernandez. “They looked before they crossed the street and didn’t see anybody.”

The superintendent of the family’s building also remembered Juanita Vidal as a kind, helpful person.

“She used to help me out with the super’s duty, the janitorial work, the garbage,” said Carlos Velez. “It’s sad. It’s very sad.”

The NYPD Highway Patrol investigates after a pedestrian was fatally struck by a driver who fled the scene on Knickerbocker Avenue and Eldert Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York City on Thursday, May 9, 2024.

Gardiner Anderson for New York Daily News

The NYPD Highway Patrol investigates the fatal crash on Thursday. (Gardiner Anderson for New York Daily News)

When the women were hit, Velez was working outside the building, around the corner from the scene and was told of the tragedy by a witness.

“At that time I was working here. One of the guys that saw the accident told me about it and I couldn’t believe it,” said the super. “They don’t deserve that. I just hope everything goes well with Jessica. About her mother, rest in peace.”

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