Victim's brother: I saw 'out of control' bus
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The panicked stepfather, wielding a sledgehammer, smashed out the window of the bedroom where one child was screaming and another lay dying.
Both boys had been trapped in the wreckage after a transit bus crashed through the front of their Hempstead Village home Tuesday night, the family recalled Wednesday.
"Papi! Papi! Mommy! My brother!" 7-year-old Josue Molina yelled moments later, said his stepfather, Santos Herrera, 41.
Josue, clad in a SpongeBob SquarePants pajama shirt and Batman bottoms, frantically dug through the rubble, trying in vain to save his younger brother, David Granados, 6.
"I was pulling on the rocks -- pulling and pulling -- but I couldn't find him," Josue said while his parents grieved with him nearby.
"I wished nobody invented the bus, so he would still be alive," the second-grader said.
Herrera, unable to open the bedroom door, climbed through the window but could rescue only Josue.
The younger boy was pronounced dead about an hour later at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, his parents by his side.
As the Nassau Inter-County Express bus carrying 11 passengers ran its doomed route shortly after 9 p.m., the boys were getting ready for bed in their shared room.
"We were chatting a little bit," Josue recalled. "I was in bed already."
David had almost finished changing into a Transformers shirt and rocket ship pajama pants. The unremarkable bedroom routine ended in an instant, when Josue looked out the window and saw the bus coming right at him.
"I was awake when the bus came," he said. "It was out of control."
In the kitchen, Mari Bel Molina was making school lunches for her sons, said Alida Gutierrez, 36, who lives in another rental unit in the house.
Molina and Herrera, a cook at an Italian restaurant, had been having a late dinner of Spanish eggs and shrimp, he said.
The bus hit the two-story house with a thunderous boom. The driver had swerved to avoid a jaywalker on Fulton Avenue near Nassau Place and jumped the curb, police said.
Herrera ran to the boys.
"The children, they were trapped in the room," he said, speaking through a Spanish translator. "I went through the window. Everything was blocked."
Miraculously, Josue suffered only scrapes on his arms -- cuts he said he got going through the broken window.
When Molina couldn't find the 6-year-old, she sobbed and called out his name, "David! David!" Gutierrez said.
But, as Molina said Wednesday before retreating to her bedroom, "It was too late."
Josue, wrapped in his parents' arms, called his brother his "best friend ever -- until the bus came.
"I love him a lot. . . . I want him now. I'm sad that he died."
He said he and David often played tag, hide-and-seek and Nintendo DS video games. He said his brother's favorite color was orange, and noted David's fondness for bananas -- sometimes.
"We do our homework together every day," he said. "I help my brother go figure out every answer. I even teached him how to do pluses and take-aways. I told him how to do times, too."
The parents are struggling with how best to help their surviving son cope. For now, they are all dealing with their grief by shedding tears, they said.
"He says he wanted another brother because his brother died," Herrera said as he packed a suitcase in their wrecked home.
As the family makes funeral plans, Josue promised never to forget David.
"He's in the sky right now, just watching," Josue said.
"I'm going to miss him a lot. But he's always going to be in here."
The boy pointed to his heart.
"He'll be with me in my dreams."