The Worcester community came together on Saturday to honor the 13-year-old girl who died in a July 23 car crash that injured four other teenagers.
Dozens of people gathered outside a memorial created at the intersection where the crash took place to honor the deceased teenager, who has not been identified by either authorities or her family. One of the other victims remains in an induced coma, The Boston Globe reported.
The vigil was attended primarily by young teenagers dealing with unprecedented loss. Latoya Lewis, who helped organize the rally, told NBC Boston that she hopes the vigil shows them they are not alone in their grief.
“We are here for love, hope and to remind them that we are here to support them during this difficult time,” she said.
Yannalia Cossette, 15, addressed the crowd, saying she was sick of seeing people die young, MassLive reported.
“I’m 15. I don’t want to bury my friends anymore,” Cossette said.
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The three-car crash happened at 9:52 p.m., with the five teenagers in an SUV that police later discovered was stolen. The SUV, “driving erratically”, ran a red light on Main Street, hitting a Honda Accord and a Chevy Impala and pushing the cars into a streetlight pole. The 13-year-old driver of the car was pronounced dead at the scene.
Vigil organizers pointed to 20-year-old Jayxavien Nunez, who witnessed the accident and provided medical aid to the injured teenagers.
“He checked these youngsters, as a youngster he went out here, looked for pulses, tied a tourniquet on somebody’s leg, which basically saved this young man’s life,” he told the crowd the organizer of the event, Luvleigh Amanda. “So I want you to take a moment and give some honor to this young man who is a hero.”
Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty and Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Rachel Monárrez attended the vigil.
“Whatever it takes, because you should never have to feel like this. You are children, you are supposed to enjoy life,” Monárrez told children in the crowd, according to the World.
Family members of the victims have questioned the Worcester Police Department’s explanation of the accident, citing surveillance footage showing two officers turning their car around at the time of the accident. These relatives met with the investigators in private on July 28, World reported.
Worcester Police held a press conference on July 27 to dispel “false narratives” about the officers’ actions. Police said the two officers in question were working on a nearby mission to recover a cruiser for another officer who had been sent to hospital. As officers saw the SUV “driving erratically”, they decided not to pursue it, police said.
“They wouldn’t have had the cruiser had they known about the serious accident,” an officer said.
Erica M. Clay, the teenager’s aunt in critical condition and a participant in the July 28 meeting, told the World that she does not understand how the officers were not aware of the accident, because it caused a lot of noise during the impact.
“I am an ordinary person. I don’t go against the police every day,” she said. “I just want to know what happened to those kids and my nephew.”
While families wait for answers, the community of Worcester seeks to raise its children so they don’t suffer the same fate.
“At the end of the day, these are our children, these are our babies, and I could never want to know what it’s like to feel like the moms who are hurting right now,” Lewis told the crowd. “We are only here today to tell these children that they are loved.”
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