PORTAGE, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Friends and family are overcome with grief and trying to make sense of the tragic loss of a young life. Portage Central High School graduate Alyssa Elsman, 18, died Thursday when a driver who police believe was high on drugs crashed onto a crowded sidewalk in New York City's Times Square. We're told her younger sister Ava, 13, was among the 22 other people injured in the crash. A family friend says Ava underwent surgery Thursday afternoon and remains in the hospital.
Those who knew Alyssa describe her as thoughtful, bright and friendly. They remember her caring nature as they try to process the tragedy gripping national headlines. "Just to think about, out of everyone in the world it's someone that you know and care about. It's weird to think about. There was nothing she could have done. It wasn't her fault at all," said Portage Central senior Tramaine Carmouche. He says she helped him get his job at a local Sonic restaurant. "She was ... a really hard worker," said Carmouche.
Portage Central Principal Eric Alburtus remembers Alyssa well. "Alyssa was a terrific young lady. Bright, thoughtful, quiet. Terrific sense of humor," said Alburtus, who says many students will miss her dearly. The district will have grief counselors available to students at Portage Central High School Friday to help cope with the loss. "We're prepared to make sure that all of our kids have the support they need."
Alyssa Elsman is the second student in the Portage community killed in recent months. Senior Dante Latora, 17, was killed in a car crash in March on his way to a wrestling tournament.
"I notice when this stuff happens it brings us closer. It's sad that it has to work like that, but it's nice to feel like you have family," said Carmouche.
State Sen. Margaret O'Brien says Alyssa's death hits too close to home. "You know as a mom of young people, when I heard it was one of our very own, Alyssa, my heart just broke," she said. "You know we had another tragic loss of another Portage Central student not even a month ago, and it is just really hard to comprehend. It was a life taken too soon."
State Rep. Brandt Iden also weighed in on the tragedy tonight, saying, "The state of Michigan and our community stand in support of the Elsman family. We offer our thoughts, prayers and condolences as family and friends mourn this tragic loss."