By Tara Vocino
A five-year-old girl and two-month-old baby died after walking across the grass median strip at the intersection of Route 145 and North Shore Road when they were reportedly hit by a SUV that swerved off the road – driven by a driver who may have been impaired – on Sunday night.
Two-month-old Natasha Nicole Mejia-Rivera died early Thursday morning, and five-year-old Adrianna Meja-Rivera died upon impact, according to Jake Wark, spokesperson for Suffolk County District Attorney John Pappas. Natasha Meja-Rivera spent approximately a week in a coma at Massachusetts General Hospital in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Wark said.
The operator of the SUV that reportedly struck the group, 42-year-old Autumn Harris of Beacon Hill, was arraigned Monday on charges of motor vehicle homicide and negligent operation of a motor vehicle for the collision near the intersection of Route 145 and North Shore Road. Chelsea District Court Judge Matthew Machera set bail at $10,000 and ordered Harris to remain drug- and alcohol-free, if she posts that amount, according to Wark.
Prosecutors say Harris was behind the wheel of a 2015 Chevrolet Equinox shortly before 5 p.m. when it left the roadway and struck the victims, who were on a sidewalk along the median strip of Route 145 on their way back from grocery shopping. In a recorded, post-Miranda statement, she allegedly stated that she had consumed one beer earlier on Sunday afternoon, that she had taken prescription and over-the-counter medication to help her sleep the night before and that she had only slept two hours before working all day. She allegedly stated she had vaped CBD oil in the vehicle and that she might have nodded off at the wheel. However, she reportedly declined to take a breathalyzer test, and her license was suspended immediately. Harris had been charged with driving under influence of alcohol previously.
Harris is represented by Attorney Jeff Miller. She will return to court on Jan. 10.
Charges aside, Pappas said it’s all about supporting the Mejia-Rivera family right now. “Our priority right now is supporting a family who lost the center of their world in the blink of an eye,” said Pappas, who has assigned two victim-witness advocates to the case. He added that additional charges are likely in the days and weeks to come.
Behind Natasha and Adrianna, another adult female suffered non-life-threatening injuries; and a two-year-old child suffered non-life-threatening injuries, according to a State Police spokesperson. State and local police declined to be interviewed on the scene Sunday night.
Preliminary investigation indicates all the victims were together in the median which divides both sides of Route 145. They were at the crosswalk in the median apparently waiting to cross when struck. A passenger in the vehicle, an adult female, suffered non-life-threatening injuries, State Police said.
Family members on the scene Sunday hugged each other tightly, crying, and were too distraught to be interviewed. They simply said “it’s sad” and that they didn’t have details of what happened. When reached later that week, they asked for privacy.
Fire Chief Chris Bright said Route 145 at North Shore Road is a very dangerous intersection and that it was a horribly graphic and emotional scene. “It was a terrible event,” Bright said.
Mayor Brian Arrigo said the city is overcome with sorrow by the unthinkable loss. “On behalf of the entire city of Revere, I express our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the family, knowing that no words can begin to ease their pain and sadness,” Arrigo said.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dianne Kelly said extra grievance counselors will be available to students and parents for as long as needed. “Adrianna was an integral part of the Garfield School,” Kelly said. “For many, it’s the first experience of loss, so it’s difficult to process tragedy.”
Arrigo said they continue to push for traffic improvements in this area but, unfortunately, no traffic design can prevent impaired driving. Approximately a quarter-mile east of the scene, the Department of Conservation and Recreation recently completed roadway improvements to regulate traffic and to slow traffic where Revere Beach Parkway intersects Winthrop Avenue. “We will continue to work closely with the state as they make other safety improvements in that area,” Arrigo said.
A few people weighed in on the judge’s ruling. Jan Dumas said Harris was likely impaired. “I hope her license gets pulled,” Dumas said. “I hope she gets some jail time.”
However, Jennifer D’Eon looked at it from a different angle. D’Eon said the images of Harris in the courtroom show that Harris is suffering tremendously. “This was a tragedy,” D’Eon said. “I’m sure she holds herself accountable and is suffering more than anyone can imagine. All my love and sympathy to all involved.”
Several GoFundMe pages have been put up for the Mejia-Rivera and Harris family. However, the Harris page has since been removed.
Tara Vocino may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.