Bryanna Soplin's family hopes hit-run driver is found

The search continued for a driver who, police said, struck and killed a 13-year-old girl with Down syndrome early June 15, 2014 as she crossed Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown. On June 16, 2014, family members gathered at Bryanna Soplin's grandparents' house in Hicksville, where it is believed she may have been headed. (Credit: Newsday Staff)

Grief-stricken relatives of Bryanna Soplin said they hope the motorist who kept going after striking the 13-year-old girl on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown early Sunday is located soon.

"We're just waiting to hear from somebody to let us know who took my baby away," Jennifer Curuchaga, Bryanna's mother, told reporters Monday.

Bryanna, who attended Wisdom Lane Middle School in Levittown, was struck early Sunday as she tried to cross Hempstead Turnpike at Gardiners Avenue, Nassau County police said.


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Family members have said she had Down syndrome and may have wandered away from her home in an attempt to visit her grandfather, Carlos Curuchaga, who lives in Hicksville 2 miles away.

"They have witnesses that saw that Bryanna was actually waiting at the light to turn in order for her to cross the street," Jennifer Curuchaga said. "They did see that car actually pass through the red light and struck her and just kept going without stopping."

A police spokeswoman Monday said there was at least one witness to the accident. She said it was not immediately clear whether Bryanna was in a crosswalk when struck.

Bryanna was taken to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow with head and body trauma, and was pronounced dead by hospital staff at 4:30 a.m., police said.

"She was the perfect girl," said Bryanna's grandmother, Patty Curuchaga, crying as she spoke. "She was a beautiful girl. She always smiled. She never complained."

Referring to the motorist who drove away after striking her granddaughter, Patty Curuchaga said, "I am so angry with this person." Investigators described the vehicle as a blue 2011 to 2013 Chrysler Town and Country minivan that continued east on Hempstead Turnpike, then north onto the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway.

"All my family are devastated," said Ramiro Pay, Bryanna's stepfather. "She was very happy, a lovely girl. We're speechless right now."

"We are extremely saddened to learn of the tragic death of one of our Wisdom Lane students," James Grossane, superintendent of the Levittown school district, said in a statement on Sunday.

Hempstead Turnpike has long been one of the deadliest roadways for pedestrians on Long Island, with hundreds of deaths and injuries recorded, according to transportation experts and Newsday reports. Police said anyone with information can contact Nassau County Crime Stoppers at 800-244-8477.

With David M. Schwartz,

John Valenti, Deon J. Hampton and Jennifer Barrios

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