WILLIAMSBURG — A devoted father of two young daughters was killed early Thursday when a car plowed into him and a 24-year-old woman on Borinquen Place, police and relatives said.
Raul De La Cruz, 35, was crossing Keap Street about 5 a.m. when a Chevy Malibu traveling eastbound struck him and the woman, catapulting them into the oncoming traffic before fleeing the scene, NYPD officials and relatives said.
As De La Cruz lay in the middle of the street, another vehicle hit him, police said.
"He was laid out on the ground," said Gregory, a dispatcher at a nearby car service who ran to the intersections when he heard about the accident over the radio.
Emergency medical technicians raced to the scene but De La Cruz was already dead, police said.
The unidentified woman was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital Center in critical condition, police said.
Cops found the abandoned Malibu about five blocks away with a smashed-up front end and shattered windshield, police said.
Later in the day, police arrested Adam Recio, 27, a Brooklyn resident, and charged him with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious injury, police said.
De La Cruz's shocked friends and relatives gathered at his nearby apartment after getting the devastating news.
They said he loved music, cars and had a “wild laugh.”
“He’d come in and just laugh and everyone would know it was him,” said Sandy Hierro, who works at a barbershop where De La Cruz got his haircuts.
His co-workers at Rapid Park garage on West 20th Street in Manhattan, where De La Cruz was an attendant, said he had a great sense of humor.
''He was a very, very nice person, always joking around," said Paul LeFebre, 40, who only recently began working at the garage. "He was always looking to see if anybody needed anything. He made me feel welcome''
De La Cruz had separated from the mother of his two daughters — ages 7 and 10 — but remained committed to being the best father he could be.
Thursday was his eldest daughter's birthday, friends said. De La Cruz had planned to take the girls — who stayed with him on weekends — to Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate.
“He was always dancing with them,” said longtime friend Betsy Toro, 43.
Ingrid De La Cruz, 32, Raul De La Cruz's sister, said Thursday afternoon that no one had told the girls yet that their father was dead.
''He was very friendly," Ingrid De La Cruz said. "He was always happy.''
She said she didn't believe her brother was dead until she went to identify his body.
''My mother is devastated," Ingrid De La Cruz said. "I don't think she knows it's true.''
Raul De La Cruz's relatives condemned the driver in the deadly crash for not stopping.
“God help him for running,” said Jillian De La Cruz, Raul’s 18-year-old niece. “He never should’ve left the scene.”
Outside of Recio's home after his arrest on Thursday, a woman who identified herself as his mother said her son "is a good person."
"I'm very sorry for whatever happened," said the woman, who did not give her name.
Neighborhood residents, meanwhile, said the apparent hit-and-run was just the latest incident on a stretch they've long considered dangerous for pedestrians. Cars often speed through Borinquen Place, which is near the Williamsburg Bridge, they said.
Last year, Leopoldo Hernandez, a 57-year-old maintenance worker, was struck by two vans and killed at the same intersection.