Raymond Pereyra heard screams on the street Saturday afternoon from the ninth floor of his apartment building and ran outside.
When he emerged, he said, he saw an ambulance parked on Nassau Street, its driver weeping. The man's partner and some others got out and scooped a tiny body up from the pavement in a white sheet. A woman Pereyra knew from his building, who neighbors said had two lovely daughters, stood sobbing.
The tragedy unfolded just footsteps from the girl's home and from one of Boston's major hospitals.
Boston police said a toddler was hit and killed by an ambulance outside the emergency room of Tufts Medical Center just after 1 p.m. Police did not release the child's name, age, or gender. Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said Saturday night the child was 2.
Neighbors said the victim was a girl who lived with her family on the street where she was struck.
"These folks are absolutely the most peaceful people," said Pereyra, 36, who said the girl's father joined her mother in the street shortly after the crash near their silver Honda minivan. "It's going to affect this community a real lot."
The girl was taken to Tufts Medical Center, where officials said she was pronounced dead. Several hours later, just before 5 p.m., family members and friends walked in a tight huddle, some crying, back into the family's apartment building. They did not speak with a reporter.
The ambulance at the scene, which was hauled away around 4:30 p.m., bore the EasCare logo.
"Everyone at EasCare is deeply saddened by the incident that occurred earlier today," said EasCare president and chief executive Tim Coolen in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim. EasCare will continue [to] co-operate fully with the investigation in an open and transparent manner."
He did not immediately respond to a request about the ambulance driver's identity or driving record.
Boston police spokesman Officer Stephen McNulty said the investigation into the crash was ongoing.
"Preliminary indications are, it's a tragic accident," he said.
No charges had been filed against the driver as of early evening, Wark said, though he said it was early in the investigation and nothing had been ruled out.
A Tufts spokeswoman said no information was available.
A man who described himself as a friend of the little girl's father said the child's mother was taking her two daughters home when the crash occurred outside their apartment building. They live across the street from the ambulance entrance to the Tufts emergency room.
"She's a very cute little girl. I don't know what to say," the man said.
He said the girl's father is from China, but the two girls were born in the United States.
"He loves both his daughters," the man said. "They spent a lot of time with the kids."
He said during his visit with the family, the girl's mother was "just crying and crying" and her father was "nervous."
"We all just feel sad," he said.
Mei Lee, who lives in the same apartment building as the girl, said the family moved to Chinatown about a year ago.
"It's so sad," Lee said. "I can't believe it."
She said the two little girls spent a lot of time in a playground outside their apartment building.
"They're friendly," Lee said. "They like to come here every day."
A Facebook account that a friend said belonged to the father showed a recent family portrait session. In one photo, the mother and father each held one of their daughters, who grinned in matching purple and blue dresses. In another, the little girls stood holding hands, one giving a thumbs up, the other making a peace sign.
"Love my family forever," the father had captioned the picture.
The family's silver Honda remained Saturday night where the mother had parked it. A teddy bear sat on the dashboard behind a stuffed yellow duck. A sticker on the back windshield depicted a baby in sunglasses, with worn letters proclaiming: "Baby on board."
The crash brought sadness to the Chinatown neighborhood, where ambulances headed to and from Tufts must navigate narrow streets crowded with pedestrians to reach the emergency room.
"There are so many children," said Yan Zhou, a Chinatown resident who was walking home with her 5-year-old son. "The ambulances, sometimes, they're dangerous."
Michael Wong, who has lived in Chinatown for 42 years, said he was in disbelief.
"There are so many people that live in this area," he said. "How can it happen like that?"