Teen killed in Times Square tragedy remembered as ‘compassionate, bright’ woman

Posted at 2:34 PM, May 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-19 14:48:21-04

TIMES SQUARE, Manhattan — A teenager killed when an apparently intoxicated driver sped into crowds in Times Square spanning multiple blocks is being remembered Friday as a bright and compassionate woman.

Alyssa Elsman/Instragram

Alyssa Elsman, 18, of Portage, Michigan, was visiting NYC with her mother and younger sister when tragedy struck Thursday afternoon.

Richard Rojas, 26, is accused of speeding through Times Square, fatally striking Alyssa Elsman, and injuring 19 others, including the woman's 13-year-old sister.

The younger Elsman girl remains hospitalized, with a collapsed lung and broken pelvis, according to Chief of Manhattan detectives William Aubry.

Grief counselors are at Alyssa Elsman's Michigan high school Friday, offering support to students and staff.

"It's almost trite to say it's a shock, but that's the only word I can come up with," Principal Eric Alburtus told PIX11 sister station WXMI.  "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."

The young woman is remembered by her principal as thoughtful, compassionate and bright.

"If you didn’t know her, you would perceive she was quiet and reserved, but as soon as you could spend even a few minutes with her, she was engaging, and she was funny,” Alburtus said.

Friend Zachary Anderson told WXMI Alyssa was a "very good person," who always looked out for others.

Numerous people have offered condolences to Elsman's family, including a bystander who was at the scene Thursday and aided in detaining the teen's accused killer, and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"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."

Rojas faces one murder charge, 20 counts of attempted murder and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide.