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Grief-Stricken Mom of 11-Year-Old Killed by Dump Truck Collapses at Vigil

By Paul DeBenedetto | December 31, 2012 10:12am

EAST ELMHURST — The mother of an 11-year-old boy who was struck and killed by a dump truck on his way to school collapsed in front of her son's makeshift memorial Sunday, crying out for her lost child as her husband tried to console her.

"We're going through devastation right now," said Osvaldo Zubizarreta, the boy's stepfather. "We've had three days of agony, torment, soul searching and trying to place things in God's hands so that he can make the best of what we can't imagine."

The grief-stricken parents were joined by dozens of Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst locals at a makeshift memorial on the corner of 80th Street and Northern Boulevard, where Miguel Torres was killed on Friday shortly before 8:45 a.m.

A priest read a blessing from the Bible as members of the community decried what they said was a lack of safety on Northern Boulevard.

"It's dangerous just to cross the street," said Jackson Heights resident John McGurrin. "To cross Northern Boulevard, you put your life in your hands."

The vigil, organized by a group of concerned Jackson Heights parents after seeing news of the boy's tragic death, was an opportunity to raise awareness of a street they say has become more dangerous, according to organizers. Those in attendance compared the six-lane boulevard to another busy Queens street known, to many, as the "Boulevard of Death."

"They talk a lot about Queens Boulevard, but Northern Boulevard is very similar," said Maribel Egipciaco, one of the vigil's organizers.

The accident occurred on Friday morning, when young Miguel Torres, having just bought a Sprite and a Pop-Tart from the N&K Smart Mart, tried to cross the street to attend a winter break kids program at I.S. 145, according to family and security camera footage.

That's when the dump truck, turning right onto Northern Boulevard from 80th Street, clipped the boy with its back wheels, killing him before driving away, police said.

Police originally called the incident a hit-and-run. But after tracking down the truck, an NYPD spokeswoman said the driver may have been unaware that the child was struck.

No criminal charges have been filed, though the case is still under investigation, the spokeswoman said.

Family members on Saturday called on the NYPD to pursue charges against the driver.

"They’re just giving him summonses," Miguel's aunt, Yolanda Ardezzone, said on Saturday. “I think he should get more than summonses — jail time, so this won't happen to another child.”

Among those in attendance at Sunday's vigil were local politicians, who offered consolation to the grieving family. Jackson Heights Councilman Daniel Dromm led a prayer in Spanish, and State Assemblyman Michael DenDekker related his own experiences of loss.

"I'm not just here as an Assembly member. I'm here because I lost my child this year also, in March," DenDekker said. "I felt that I had to be here to show you that I'm with you, and I feel your pain."

State Sen. Jose Peralta, who said that Miguel's body would be sent to Mexico for a burial, stressed that drivers need to pay more attention to the road, especially when driving near busy intersections and in school zones. 

He also said that, as a father of two daughters, Miguel's death represented a nightmare scenario for a parent.

"This is a tragedy that shouldn't happen," Peralta said. "A parent should never attend a child's funeral."