Just before 6 p.m. Sunday night, 11-year-old Gladys Reyes of West Saint Paul and another girl were crossing Wentworth Avenue at South Robert Road when a van turned off Robert and struck Reyes. The sixth grader from Heritage School was pinned under the van and dragged for several hundred yards down Wentworth until another driver, David Carrera of South Saint Paul, realized what was happening and gave chase.
West Saint Paul Police Chief Manila Shaver III explains what happened next. "The driver of this other vehicle (Carrera) saw this happen and saw that the girl was stuck under the van and that this van wasn't gonna stop. So, the driver (Carrera) immediately tried to follow this van and flashed its lights and beeped its horn trying to get this van to stop. The driver just wouldn't stop, so, ultimately the driver was able to get in front of the van and cut it off and that's where the van stopped."
When the van finally stopped, the driver fled on foot. West Saint Paul Police, called to the scene by Carrera and possibly others, arrested him a short distance away. The 33-year-old Saint Paul man, who spoke very little English, may have fled because he was driving without a valid license. He was arrested, but has not yet been charged.
Although they insist they do not recommend that ordinary citizens follow Carrera’s lead, West Saint Paul Police praised the Good Samaritan’s quick action in stopping the van and possibly saving Reyes’ life. The girl remains in critical condition at Regions Hospital in Saint Paul.
"Of course, they're just in shock as we are, too," Chief Shaver said of the child's family. "This is a very tragic thing that happened. Nothing like this should happen to a young girl."
As for Carrera, "I would say thank you for your efforts in taking that risk and certainly the family is appreciative. The West Saint Paul Police Department is appreciative and we hope together that this girl will survive."
The sixth graders at Heritage Middle School in West Saint Paul along with faculty and staff were offered crisis counseling Monday morning. Principal Chris Hiti knows both girls involved in the incident personally and describes them as "popular" and "high spirited".
"They're good kids and they represent their families and the students here very well."
The driver of the van is expected to be formally charged on Tuesday in Dakota County Court in Hastings. He faces charges of Criminal Vehicular Operation causing great bodily harm, leaving the scene of an accident causing great bodily harm and driving with a suspended license.
(Copyright 2007 by KARE. All Rights Reserved)