Times Square crash victim was 18-year-old Portage woman

Posted at 9:42 PM, May 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-18 22:23:01-04

NEW YORK -- Police say an 18-year-old woman killed by a car that plowed through pedestrians in Times Square was a tourist from Portage, Michigan.

Alyssa Elsman died Thursday when a man drove his car down the sidewalk for three blocks into the heart of New York City's theater district.

Twenty-three people were struck by the car before it was stopped by a security barrier.

Police say Elsman's 13-year-old sister Ava was among the people who were struck but survived.

Police identifythe driver of the car as Richard Rojas, a Navy veteran from the Bronx. They say he was captured at the scene and arrested.

While police continue to investigate that crash, here in West Michigan the community is mourning Alyssa's death.  Elsman graduated from Portage Central High School last year.

"It's almost trite to say it's a shock, but that's the only word I can come up with," said Principal Eric Alburtus.  "When I first heard about the crash, I was obviously sad about the crash, and then within a half an hour when families reached out to let me know it was Alyssa, it was crushing."

Those who knew Alyssa say she was smart, caring, funny and talented.

"She was a very good person, a very good person," said her friend Zachary Anderson. "She was always trying to look out for other people as well as herself."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also offered his condolences to the Elsman family in the wake of the tragedy.

"We all feel deeply right now for those who were injured and for their families," de Blasio said. "And particularly for the family of the young woman who was lost. Our prayers are with her family and with all those who right now are suffering because of this horrible incident."

Principal Alburtus says there will be grief counselors at Portage schools tomorrow to meet with any students or staff members who are struggling.

The Associated Press contributed to this report