MERIDEN — The sound of a heavy sport utility vehicle crashing into a smaller car just under her second floor window rocked Angelina Lenzzo and many other Broad Street residents early Sunday morning.
“I thought it was an explosion,”Lennzo said.”Then I look out and the car looked like it was in two pieces.”
On Sunday afternoon, a white, red and a few pink roses were placed in front of crosswalk light at the intersection of Broad Street and Gale Avenue where two children were killed in the accident hours earlier. Police have not yet identified the victims, but it is believed they attended local schools.
Shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday, police responded to the intersection on a report of a two-car accident, Sgt. Darrin McKay, police spokesman, said in a statement.
A Subaru Legacy was heading north on Broad Street and stopped at a traffic light when it was struck from behind by a GMC Denali, which was also going north on Broad Street, McKay said.
The driver of the Denali, identified as Israel Gonzalez, of Ann Street, fled the accident scene on foot, McKay said. He was found inside a nearby home, McKay said.
Two children, a 5-year-old girl and a 8-year-old boy, died from injuries in the crash. A 12-year-old child and the children’s parents are being treated at a hospital, McKay said.
Police suspect speed and alcohol contributed to the accident, McKay said. Police are seeking a warrant to get results of blood alcohol tests done on Gonzalez, McKay said.
Lenzzo’s boyfriend, Isaac Hunter, who lives at the corner of Broad Street and Ann Street, was among the first to arrive at the crash. He said the force of the crash sent the Denali about 100 feet.
“It sounded like an M-80,” he said. Hunter dialed 9-1-1 and made his way to the driver and passengers. He said the female in the passenger seat was conscious and talking, and the male driver was drifting in and out of consciousness. He reassured a child in the back seat that things were going to be OK. Help was coming.
He asked the mother if there was anyone else in the car. She replied yes, two other children. Because of the condition of the car, Hunter couldn’t see them.
“It was very scary,” he said.
Brie Patrick was tending bar at nearby Chaz’s Place and getting ready to close when patrons saw the flying debris from the Subaru outside the bar’s windows. Police cruisers and emergency medical technicians soon followed.
“It was very traumatic,” said patron Ashley Porter. “He had lopped off the back of the trunk. We saw them jimmy the passenger side door and we left. We knew it was children and we had to leave.”
Patrick was concerned Gonzalez may have been in the bar because patrons told her the Denali had been in the rear parking lot until 11 p.m.
But the parking lot is shared with businesses and apartments in the small strip and Patrick had not seen him in the bar.
As the day went on more neighbors in the area visited the intersection to pay their respects at the makeshift memorial where the crash occurred.
A small white teddy bear with a blue and pink stomach and a brown stuffed lion were being carried by Ismael Chino and his family, who walked from their home on 198 Broad St. to the accident site. They pulled out clear packing tape and wrapped it around the toys and the pole where the roses were placed earlier.
Both stuffed animals belonged Melissa Chino, Ismael’s 17-year-old daughter, who wanted to “show her support” for the children and their families.
“Those two were the most special to me because I got them for Christmas,” Melissa Chino said.
Melissa Chino heard the a loud crash and told her father. When Ismael Chino went outside he saw the truck across the intersection and the mangled car that the two children were in.
“I heard people screaming for help,” Chino said.
Lily Bervier of 170 Broad Street, directly across the site of the accident, said she came outside after hearing sirens and people screaming and saw the two children lying on the pavement. She said paramedics tried to revive the children.
It was “shocking, my kids are those kids age,” Bervier said.
Meriden School Superintendent Mark D. Benigni said he is awaiting confirmation that the children attended local schools. The school system will have crisis staff and support personnel on standby.
“It’s a horrific tragedy,” Benigni said.
Gonzalez, 28, was arrested and charged with evading responsibility, reckless driving and operating a motor vehicle without a license.
Police say the investigation remains open and active, McKay said. Charges may be added pending the results of the blood test, McKay said.
Gonzlez is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.