SOUTHAMPTON, N.J. (AP) — A vehicle struck a group of children and a teenager pulling a red wagon in the center of a dark southern New Jersey street, leaving a toddler dead and critically injuring three others.
The preliminary investigation indicated the group was walking with the flow of traffic in the middle of rural Buddtown Road in Southampton when they were hit at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday by a vehicle driven by Thomas Xenakis Jr., 37, of Southampton, State Police spokesman Capt. Stephen Jones said.
Jyonshiel Martinez, 2, died at a hospital little more than an hour later, Jones said Wednesday, while Jairisa Galindo, 18, John Giles, 8, and Kahariel Martinez, 6, were in critical condition at Cooper Hospital in Camden.
Galindo was pulling the 2-year-old and 6-year-old in the wagon, while Giles walked next to them, Jones said.
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A fifth person, 13-year-old Mahya Martinez, was walking off the road and was not struck.
The five live in the same apartment complex in Southampton, but Jones could not say whether they are related, even though three share the same last names.
The driver stopped and cooperated with investigators, Jones said. State police said there was no indication that excessive speed, drugs or alcohol were involved. No charges are pending and no tickets have been filed while the accident remained under investigation, Jones said.
The posted speed limit was 45 mph, and there are no sidewalks, shoulders or street lights, Jones said.
Cheryl and Paul O’Neil heard a loud boom and came running from their home after the accident.
“We heard people just screaming at the top of their lungs. So we came running out and we saw them lying on the grass and in the road.” Cheryl O’Neil told WPVI-TV (http://6abc.cm/1J42Ub8 ) in Philadelphia.
“Besides the two kids lying on the side of the street, there was a girl lying in the middle of the street. The neighbor across the street was doing chest compressions on her,” Paul O’Neil said.
The O’Neils said the road lacks a shoulder.
“They had their whole lives ahead of them. They were so little. This tiny little red wagon with these tiny little kids. It was very hard to see,” Cheryl O’Neil said.