A southern New Jersey town was in mourning after a vehicle struck a group of children and a teenager pulling a red wagon in the center of a dark street, leaving a toddler dead and critically injuring three others.
The preliminary investigation indicated the group was walking with the flow of traffic in the middle of a rural Southampton road when they were hit at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday by a vehicle driven by Thomas Xenakis Jr., 37, a local man.
Jyonshiel Martinez, 2, died at a hospital little more than an hour later, while Jairisa Galindo, 18, John Giles, 8, and Kahariel Martinez, 6, were in critical condition at Cooper Hospital in Camden. Galindo was pulling the 2-year-old and 6-year-old in the wagon, while Giles walked next to them.
A fifth person, 13-year-old Mahya Martinez, was walking off the road and was not struck. The five live in the same apartment complex in Southampton.
The driver stopped and cooperated with investigators. State police said there was no indication that excessive speed, drugs or alcohol were involved. No charges are pending and no tickets have been filed while the accident remained under investigation.
The posted speed limit was 45 mph, and there are no sidewalks, shoulders or street lights, Jones said.
Cheryl and Paul O’Neil heard a loud boom and came running from their home after the accident.
“We heard people just screaming at the top of their lungs. So we came running out and we saw them lying on the grass and in the road.” Cheryl said.
“They had their whole lives ahead of them. They were so little. This tiny little red wagon with these tiny little kids. It was very hard to see,” she added.