Good Samaritan stops driver who hit teenage girls

May 22, 2010 3:50:32 PM PDT
A group of four teenage girls was struck by a hit-and-run driver near Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island. Three of the four victims are recovering at Winthrop University Hospital, while the fourth remains in critical condition.Thankfully, the quick work of a Good Samaritan led to the arrest of the 26-year-old driver believed responsible.

Now, Elias Garcia faces multiple charges of assault, reckless driving and endangerment.

"His crime compounded itself and become much more serious when he left the scene of an accident," said Lieutenant Ray Cote, with the Nassau County Police Dept.

The scene was chaotic at one of the busiest Long Island intersections at the busiest time of the day. The four 16-year-old girls were mowed down as they were crossing Old Country Road at Glen Cove Road.

"Two of the girls were struck in the crosswalk," Good Samaritan Steve Loverde said. "The other two were hanging, were stuck on the hood of the car."

Loverde's first inclination was to stop and help, until the contractor saw the driver who had just struck the girls.

"In a very quick moment I saw him accelerating and trying to escape," Loverde said.

Loverde, maneuvering his car around the chaos, began chasing the driver down Clinton road.

"As I was speeding, I was flashing my high beams and honking my horn," he said. "So he saw me coming after him. At that point, he started speeding up even faster."

Garcia stopped at a red light on Stewart Avenue, and Loverde jumped from his car and confronted the driver at the curb.

"I swung open his door, pulled him out, took his keys out of the ignition," Loverde said.

"'You left the scene. The girls are hurt back there. How could you just drive away?' he recalled saying to Garcia. "It's inhumane to do something like that. And he just looked at me and said, 'I didn't see them, I didn't see them.'"

Police say drugs and alcohol were not a factor. Garcia did not have a license and is undocumented.

"Mr. Garcia could have remained at the scene and given his account," Cote said. "Certainly things could have been less difficult for him at this point."

"This could be my daughter, this could be anyone's daughter," Loverde said. "And this guy cannot get away with this."