On Thursday morning, a driver plowed into the sidewalk of New York's Times Square, injuring 22 pedestrians and killing one. Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old tourist visiting from Portage, Michigan, was reported dead on the scene. Her 13-year-old sister was injured in the crash.
Earlier in the day, Elsman had shared an Instagram story from Times Square's red TKTS staircase. She'd visited that same staircase a little over a year ago, according to a post on her Instagram account.
Elsman's boyfriend Trevor West spoke with the New York Post:
"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. I knew something was wrong.
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."
He also told the Post that Elsman had been on vacation with a friend, as well as her sister and her mother. She was going to return to Michigan on Tuesday.
Michigan community members and lawmakers shared tributes to Elsman. Eric Alburtus, the principal of Portage High School — where Elsman had graduated in 2016 — described her to CBS as "bright, thoughtful, quiet, terrific sense of humor — so when I first heard the story, I glanced at my phone real fast, but could not even imagine that it affected one of us."
Michigan Rep. Fred Upton shared his condolences on Facebook, while Michigan state Rep. Brandt Iden shared:
In this time of confusion and pain, the State of Michigan and our community stand in support of the Elsman family. We offer our thoughts, prayers, and condolences as family and friends mourn this tragic loss.
The driver, Richard Rojas, was a Navy veteran whose criminal record included two DWI charges. According to the Post, sources report hearing Rojas saying, "You were supposed to shoot me! I wanted to kill them." Sources also imply that Rojas was not under the influence of alcohol, but that he'd tested positive for drugs.