Times Square Crash Victim Was Beloved Daughter, Sister With 'Terrific Sense of Humor'
Alyssa Elsman, 18, was visiting from Portage, Michigan, when a driver plowed through crowds of tourists.
Thursday's horrific tragedy in Times Square has hit particularly close to home for one Michigan family who lost one of their daughters and very nearly lost another.
Alyssa Elsman, 18, was visiting from Portage, south of Kalamazoo, when a driver plowed through crowds of tourists, injuring 22 but killing only her.
Among the injured was Elsman's 13-year-old sister, Ava.
Alyssa is a 2016 graduate of Portage Central High School, according to local reports.
The school's principal, Eric Alburtus, described Elsman to CBS News as "bright, thoughtful, quiet, terrific sense of humor — so when I first heard the story, I glance at my phone real fast, but could not even imagine that it affected one of us."
Her aunt called the family very "close-knit."
"That will be huge in a situation like this," she said.
Rep. Fred Upton from the family's home district gave his condolences on Facebook, saying: "This is tragic news that breaks the heart of every parent out there. The scenes we saw on television this morning were shocking but we never thought it could be one of our own fellow Michiganders."
Meanwhile, police in New York named the suspect in the crash as Richard Rojas, a 26-year-old U.S. Navy veteran from the Bronx.
Rojas, who has two DWI prior arrests, was taken into custody at the scene, officials said. Police reportedly believe Rojas smoked synthetic marijuana prior to the crash.
Often called The Crossroads of the World, Times Square is one of the most popular tourist spots on earth with hundreds of thousands of visitors each day.
But on this unseasonably hot May day, the bustling excitement turned to terror as witnesses say a maroon Honda sedan smashed onto panicked pedestrians before eventually coming to a crashing halt at the northwest corner of 45th Street and Broadway.
The vehicle appeared to catch fire following the crash.
"There's no indication that this was an act of terrorism," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was also at the scene.
"Today’s events at Times Square were nothing short of horrific. I was briefed at the scene by Commissioner O'Neill and saw firsthand the professionalism and diligence of New York’s first responders. As facts continue to emerge, my heart goes out to the victims of this terrible tragedy, as well as their families," Cuomo said.
Four were critically injured Thursday after suffering open fractures and multiple other traumas. Officials said they are very hopeful for the recovery of these victims.
Three other victims suffered serious injuries and 15 people had less serious injuries, according to authorities.
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