GLENDALE, Queens (WABC) -- Police in Queens are searching for the driver who hit a man crossing the street just before 11 p.m. Thursday at the intersection of Woodhaven Boulevard and Metropolitan Avenue and then left the scene.
Luis Collaguazo said he was was working as a limo driver at the time and heard 47-year-old Thomas Kelly scream, saw the driver briefly stop and then watched in dismay as that driver took off.
"I see him get hit, and he scream like, 'Hey, hey!' He scream," Collaguazo said. "I stop my car and get out to try and help him, and I call 911."
Paramedics arrived and rushed Kelly to Jamaica Hospital with severe trauma to his head and body. Friends say he died a few hours later, early Friday morning.
"It's very hard to lose somebody that I cared for so much," Kelly's caretaker and friend Moira Lopes said through tears.
Kelly was walking home from 7 Days Convenience Store, which he regularly frequented for cigarettes and other items, when he was hit.
Lopes said she was asleep when he went out and was awoken by police who told her the news. She phoned family, a sister, and rushed to the hospital to be by Kelly's side.
Kelly had been through a lot recently, according to friends. He had lost his mother and a brother and suffered a stroke himself, which left him disabled, unable to work and made moving difficult because it caused him to walk with a limp.
"Everyone would take care of him in the neighborhood, knowing he was a slower walker," Lopes said.
Friday morning, Lopes offered pleas that the driver come forward.
"I'm trying to forgive him, because I know it wasn't intentional, but it's very hard," Lopes said. "It's hard to accept. I don't even know what to say. If he's out there, we need to know what happened."
Neighborhood friends said Kelly was well loved and had lived in the neighborhood his entire life.
"Everybody knew Tommy," friend Jessica Alvarez said. "He always sat out there in his little chair, smoking his cigarettes and greeting everyone who drove by, always happy."
Police remained at the scene overnight and said they are reviewing surveillance video in the hopes of identifying the responsible driver.
"For something like this to happen to somebody like that and for somebody to just hit him and go, you don't do that," said Jessica's sister, Jazmin Alvarez. "Nobody deserves that."
Kelly's death comes as police work to reduce the number of hit and run collisions in New York City, which police say topped 40,000 last year, and just a week after a new city law authorized the creation of an alert system similar to an Amber Alert to quickly put out information about vehicles wanted in connection with hit-and-run collisions.
The NYPD is seeking a silver or gray 2008-2011 Nissan Altima. Anyone with information is asked to reach out to Crime Stoppers at 1800-577-TIPS.
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Neighborhood fixture killed in Queens hit and run