Portage, Mich., teen dies in Times Square crash, little sister hurt

Portage woman killed in NYC crash

PORTAGE, MICH. - Staff and students at Portage Central High School are grieving the loss of a 2016 graduate who died today when a vehicle careened into a crowd in New York City's Times Square.

Alyssa Elsman, 18, was a kind, compassionate student known around the school for selling delicious muffins she baked in a cooking class, principal Eric Alburtus said.

"We're all kind of a mess," he said late this afternoon as the community tried to absorb the news.  

A man who appeared to be intoxicated steered his car onto a sidewalk in Times Square around midday, killing Elsman and injuring 22 others, including her 13-year-old sister.

The driver, 26-year-old Richard Rojas, was tackled by pedestrians and taken into custody. 

Alburtus was in a meeting when a news alert popped up on his phone about the crash. Later, around 2 p.m., he received calls from friends of the Elsman family who told him Alyssa had died.

"Alyssa was wonderful young lady," he said. "When you first got to know her, you would perceive that she was shy or quiet. The more you got to know her, the more you would realize she was funny, and thoughtful, and compassionate to other people."

Alburtus met with teachers this afternoon to tell them the news. The school is bringing in grief counselors tomorrow for students.

People from as far away as Belgium and Guatemala flooded Elsman's Facebook page with messages of condolence. The page says she works as a carhop at a Sonic restaurant.  

The entire community is grieving the loss, Alburtus said.  

"Shock ... My brain is like tapioca at the moment," he said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help cover funeral and medical costs for the Elsman family. To donate, click here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

© Detroit Free Press


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