Father of tourist killed in NYC attack: 'She loved Times Square'

Reuters News
Posted: May 22, 2017 2:23 PM

By Laila Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A framed tribute from the father of an 18-year-old Michigan woman killed last week in New York's Times Square appeared on Monday morning near the spot where a driver intentionally hit her, circled by a rain-soaked mound of flowers and stuffed toys.

The makeshift memorial had sprung up on a concrete barricade set up by police after the incident, in which a Bronx man mowed down people walking along the crowded 7th Avenue sidewalk on one of the city's busiest thoroughfares, killing the woman, Alyssa Elsman, and injuring 22 others.

The letter, framed in black and signed "Dad," said Elsman, who was visiting New York with her family, loved the city and especially Times Square in midtown Manhattan, one of the most popular tourist destinations in New York.

"She would appreciate all your kind words, but she would also tell us all to get back up and continue. That's how full of life my daughter was," read the note by Thomas Elsman, who confirmed in a Facebook post that he had left the letter.

Elsman's 13-year-old sister was among those injured in the rampage on midday Thursday. Thomas Elsman could not immediately be reached for comment.

The motorist, Richard Rojas, 26, who told police he wanted to kill pedestrians as he sped more than three blocks on the sidewalk before slamming into a pole, has been charged with second-degree murder and multiple counts of attempted murder.

After the crash, Rojas was subdued by bystanders and police officers as he tried to flee the scene on foot.

The incident revived calls for banning vehicles from the Manhattan crossroads and raised concerns about other safety provisions in a redesign and renovation of the area completed last year.

It also prompted police to line most of the sidewalks around Times Square with temporary concrete and metal barriers intended to block vehicles from driving onto sidewalks.

Elsman's memorial included pictures of the teenager and hundreds of condolences written in marker pens on a newly positioned barricade.

Holly Smithson, who was visiting from England, stopped to look at the memorial from a respectful distance. "I just wanted to see what impact it had," she said, referring to the crash. "It's crazy."

Steven Keiser, a tour bus driver, stopped by the shrine on Monday to check on a small gray stuffed animal he had left earlier. "I'm like that," Keiser, 50, said. "I have respect."

Keiser, who drives a double-decker tour bus around Times Square nearly every day, said he feels safer with new traffic barricades. "This is much needed," he said.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Bernadette Baum)