EAST ELMHURST — Dozens of mourners gathered at an East Elmhurst funeral home on Monday, as family, friends and neighbors remembered Miguel Torres, the 11-year-old boy who last month was struck and killed by a dump truck on his way to school.
At Our Lady of Fatima, just four blocks north of where the accident took place on 80th Street, Miguel's stepfather Osvaldo Zubizarreta ushered in his grieving wife Elia, while the casket was carted to the front of the church.
"That's the only child, and it's going to be a lot of emptiness," Zubizarreta said. "He was a child that cared for people. He always looked to make people happy if they were sad."
That's when police said the dump truck turned right onto Northern from 80th Street and clipped the boy with its back wheels, dragging and killing him.
Police originally called the incident a hit-and-run, but after tracking down the truck, found that the driver may not have known the boy had been hit. No charges were filed, police said.
Afterwards, grieving family members called on the NYPD to take action against the driver. But on Monday Zubizarreta said his family's focus was solely on Miguel's memory.
"I'm not even thinking about that right now," Zubizarreta said.
In the days following the accident, members of the Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst communities reached out to support the family. The parent coordinator of I.S. 145 began collecting donations for the family, and others brought donations directly to Miguel's wake on Sunday.
On Dec. 30, a group of concerned Jackson Heights parents organized a candlelight vigil at the makeshift memorial constructed at the corner where the accident took place.
"There are a lot of traffic issues around here, and it's so unfortunate that a young life was taken away due to that," said Doris Torres, a mother from Jackson Heights who helped organize the vigil.
During the ceremony, the congregation read prayers and sang songs, mostly in Spanish. Afterwards, his body was brought outside, where Miguel's mother could say her last goodbyes before her son would be shipped to Mexico for his burial.
Shortly before the funeral ended, one priest addressed the crowd in English, and tried to comfort those in attendance.
"It is impossible to understand why these things happen," the priest said. "Miguel will always be in our hearts, our thoughts and our prayers."