By Shayna Jacobs and Tom Liddy
HARLEM — A teen visiting from Chicago saved a young mother from being struck by a car moments before he was mowed down by a hit-and-run driver on 125th Street, the woman and witnesses said.
Branndin Phillips-Laramore, 16, had come to the city to get out of his hometown of Chicago for the summer and was part of a summer poetry and music performance program in Brooklyn called Master Poets, according to his sister Ericka Phillips.
The musically-inclined Phillips-Laramore, who is going to be a junior in high school, had left the Windy City because he had been mugged at gunpoint recently and wanted to escape youth violence.
On Aug. 11, the night of the crash, Phillips-Laramore had been out with friends from the group following a performace, including Cassie Smith, 20, who he'd met only once before through a friend in Master Poets, said Phillips, who had been living with her brother since mid-July.
The pair was crossing south over 125th Street between Morningside and Amsterdam avenues on their way downtown when he was struck at about 9:10 p.m.
"We looked both ways," said Smith. "The light was red on Amsterdam. There were no cars coming at all."
The next thing she knew, Branndin yelled, "Watch out!"
"That's when I turned and I looked and I stepped forward twice like a leap," said Smith, who has a daughter, Nezaeh. "And that's when I saw the car hit him."
Smith said that she could feel the wind of the car brush past her before she heard an extremely loud thud. Branndin flew past her and rolled half a block, she said, landing underneath a parked car.
"I could just see the blood leaking from the back of his head and I'm calling him and calling him," she said.
"He started moving, so I'm like 'Okay Branndin, stay still. We're calling for help."
The car, which she described as a black SUV, sped off east on 125th Street. A piece of the fender was left behind, but no one got a plate number.
"You know a normal person who hits somebody and then stops? No he kept going at the same speed," she said.
"I don't even know where he came from."
Police in the 26th Precinct are still investigating and looking for the driver who fled the scene. The vehicle they're looking for match's Smith's description.
In the wake of the accident, Smith was both horrified and relieved at once.
"I was just screaming because that could have been me and I have a one-year-old daughter," she said.
"She wouldn't have seen her mother again. I was hysterical."
Smith was thankful that Phillips-Laramore stepped in.
"It makes me feel grateful," she said. "He didnt have to do that. He could have stepped out of the way. He didn't know me.
"Words can't explain the way I feel. I think he saved my life."
Smith said that she visited the teen in the hospital, but that he has no recollection of what happened.
"I told him he got hit and he saved me and I said, 'Thank you so much.'' she said.
"I told him I loved him and he just laughed and said he was in so much pain and he just wanted to go to sleep."
Phillips-Laramore suffered a broken right femur in the crash and will have to have a rod surgically implanted into his leg that will be there for years.
He also had to have stitches in his hip and four staples to close a gash in his head, his sister said.
"He's pretty heavily medicated," she said. "He's uncomfortable, but his spirit is high."
Ericka Phillips said that her brother's heroism was par for the course, describing him as "mature and compassionate."
That's "kind of how he's been all of his life - always been a super compassionate person," she said.