SPRINGFIELD — Police are searching for the driver of a station wagon they said struck and killed Ashley Ballester, 19, as she tried to push a stroller across the street. The driver then fled, police said.
Lieutenant Robert Moynihan of the Springfield Police Department said Saturday that a toddler, who was in the stroller and believed to be the woman’s daughter, was recovering from non-life-threatening injuries at Baystate Medical Center.
“It’s still under investigation,’’ said Moynihan.
A friend of the Ballester family, Anicasia Rivera, said Saturday that the child, who will turn 2 Friday, has three broken ribs and 25 stitches on the side of her head.
The crash occurred at about 8:30 p.m. Friday, as Ballester tried to cross the road with the stroller at 685 Sumner Ave., where there is no crosswalk.
A gray Suzuki station wagon struck the two, Moynihan said, throwing the child to the curb and dragging the stroller several feet. The woman was knocked into the center of the street, where she was struck by a second vehicle.
Stephen Milczarski, 50, who lives across the street from the site of the crash, heard the impact from inside his house, ran outside. “I saw her laying on the ground, and the kid laying on the tree belt,” Milczarski said. “The kid was screaming. The girl wasn’t moving.”
Emergency responders performed CPR on Ballester at the scene. She was later pronounced dead at the hospital, said Captain William Collins of Springfield police.
The driver of the station wagon left, Collins said. Police later received a call from the car’s owner, who said the vehicle had been taken by an acquaintance without her permission.
It was left at her home on Kensington Avenue, a few blocks away from the site of the collision, with damage to the exterior. Police believe they know who was driving the car, and are trying to contact that person, Collins said.
Collins said he did not know if there was any indication that the driver was speeding or driving erratically.
The driver of the second vehicle that hit Ballester stopped at the scene. Collins said there was “probably not” any wrongdoing on her part, because she was the first car in oncoming traffic and probably could not avoid hitting Ballester.
Rivera, 68, lived next-door to the Ballester family up until February, when they moved to another home in Springfield. She said she visited the child in the hospital Saturday, and saw the child’s extensive injuries.
Rivera’s husband, Jose Rivera, 74, said the woman, as well as her family, was always helpful — especially in times of need. When he underwent surgery, Jose Rivera recalled, Ballester brought over food and helped shovel his driveway.
“She was friendly,” Jose Rivera said. “You don’t find many friendly people today.”
Milczarski said the stretch of Sumner Avenue where the crash occurred is dangerous: In the one year that he has lived there, he has seen four to five other pedestrians struck by cars, though none of those incidents were serious. The street, he said, needs better lights.
“You’d be lucky if those streetlights are 150 watts,” Milczarski said. “They’re pretty much useless.”