In the viral age, it’s easier than ever for us to capture scenes of disaster live at the scene, and the horrific scenes witnessed at Times Square in Manhattan yesterday are a true testament to this unwelcome fact. On the afternoon of May 18, a maroon Honda sedan ploughed into a busy intersection, causing complete carnage at the thriving tourist hotspot.
Driver Richard Rojas, a 26-year-old Bronx man who had been high on PCP and synthetic marijuana, was immediately apprehended by law enforcement as he attempted to flee the scene of the disaster.
As a result of the intoxicated mayhem he inflicted, Rojas has been charged with murder, 20 counts of attempted murder and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide.
A total of 22 people were injured as a result of the catastrophic collision, some critically. But the most tragic victim so far has been the youngest person involved, and the only fatality: 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman. The teenager had been sightseeing in the city centre with her family at the time of the incident, before she was stuck between 42nd and 43rd Street, and pronounced dead on the scene. But, in a harrowing twist, video footage has emerged from Elsman’s Instagram account, taken mere minutes before her tragic demise.
The above Instagram boomerang video was taken at approximately 11.30am – a mere 45 minutes before the collision claimed her life. Elsman, a graduate of Portage Northern High School, Michigan, was with her 13-year-old sister at the time. She was among the people who were struck but survived. Another Instagram post from 2016 also shows her sightseeing in Times Square, and many people have commented on the tragedy on Elsman’s Instagram account.
Elsman’s boyfriend Trevor West has shared his feelings of grief and turmoil in a recent interview with the New York Post, in which he stated: “She would always text me back as quick as she could, and when I didn’t hear from her or her friend I knew something horrible happened.”
West added: “She motivated me, loved me, gave me everything I needed that I couldn’t give myself. And now that she’s gone, I don’t know how I’m going to fill that void. I don’t know how I’m going to function without her ever again”.
On Twitter, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio reflected on the tragedy, stating: “This is a tough day for New York City, but I want to thank our first responders who got here so quickly. We feel deeply for those injured and particularly for the family of the young woman who was lost. Our prayers are with all of them”.
We may never know exactly what motivated Rojas to commit these acts of vehicular homicide, other than psychosis brought on by the influence of heavy narcotics. Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by this incident, as well as their families and friends.