By Tara Vocino
Grieving family members and friends shared their grief and shared their memories of the two sisters killed in a pedestrian crash during a candlelight vigil honoring their memory last Thursday night in front of City Hall.
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 earlier this month.
Two-month-old Natasha Nicole Mejia-Rivera died last Thursday morning, and five-year-old Adrianna Mejia-Rivera died upon impact, according to Jake Wark, spokesperson for Suffolk County District Attorney John Pappas. Natasha Mejia-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 struck the group, 42-year-old Autumn Harris of Beacon Hill, was arraigned last 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 that she had vaped CBD oil in the vehicle and that she might have nodded off at the wheel. However, she declined to take a breathalyzer test, and her license was suspended immediately. Harris has been charged with driving under influence of alcohol previously.
Harris is represented by Attorney Jeff Miller. She will return to court on Jan. 10.
Cousin Kelly Figueroa said “Sweet Adri” was musical and loved the Disney movie “Frozen,” and she dressed up as the “Frozen” character Elsa this past Halloween. She was there when Natasha passed away and thinks Natasha waited until she could visit her to die.
“There were more than 35 people by her bedside,” Figueroa said. “She was so small and didn’t deserve this.”
Figueroa said Natasha was always smiling, and that everyone was praying for her.
Cousin Allyson Umana said Adrianna liked to talk, make jokes and ensure that her mother was happy. Umana said Natasha, whom she called “so cute,” and Adrianna were always smiling at each other.
Natasha and Adrianna’s father, Edgar, thanked everyone who donated and prayed for his family. They would like to bury the children in their hometown in El Salvador. He held his wife tightly all night along.
“It’s hard for me to process what happened,” Edgar Mejia-Rivera said, as he began to get emotional. “I hope the authorities can do justice.”
Their uncle, Jose, called Adrianna “lovely” and a “talker, who loved to color.”
He called Natasha “very strong, beautiful and a tough girl.” “Unfortunately, they’re no longer with us,” he added.
Family friend Luis Ramirez called Adrianna “a sweetheart and a happy girl” who always hugged him. Her birthday was coming up, he added, and someone left a slice of birthday cake at the site.
Walking to the site
After the vigil, family members walked to the site, an El Salvadoran tradition when a loved one passes.
Niece-in-law Leslie Villalobos, who organized the walk, called Adrianna and Natasha “joyful, friendly and nice girls.”
“I wish we could have gotten to see them grow up,” Villalobos said. “At least they have each other and are looking over us.”
Villalobos asked drivers to be careful if it’s dark outside and if they take medicine. “We all make mistakes, but they tell you in driving school that if you take medicine, don’t drive,” Villalobos said. “We want people who drive [to] understand how it impacts families.”
Villalobos said she hopes justice is served so that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Nonfamilial members offering their support
Those who didn’t know the girls personally offered their support and condolences.
Mayor Brian Arrigo said although the family is experiencing shock, sadness and devastation, they can have hope – through love. “This vigil is the least we can do to comfort this grieving family,” Arrigo said. “Love is their source and strength at a time when we all feel helpless.”
Senator Joe Boncore (D-Winthrop) said his heart is with the family. “The magnitude of this loss is felt by all of us in the community and is not lost on me,” Boncore said. “Still, I am moved by the extraordinary show of humanity and love displayed at the vigil, a testament to the light that the Mejia-Rivera sisters brought and continue to bring to the residents of Revere.”
Joselyn Midenz said North Shore Road is a dangerous intersection and that she simply came to support the family.
Kelly Lampedecchio Edmunds, who has been up half the night since this happened, asked how can the family move on. She called the case “disturbing.” “I hope the driver gets the help she needs,” Lampedecchio Edmunds said. “She had no right being behind the wheel. The family needs closure.”
At the site
People who stopped by the site to pay their respects during the week shared a few words.
Cheryl Sasso called it “heartbreaking.” “The kids had their whole life ahead of them,” Sasso said, tearing up. “It’s the worst thing ever. Their mother will never be the same.”
Luz Wright brought a Christmas tree so that the children can celebrate Christmas. “I feel sadness,” Wright said. “It’s horrific and unnecessary.”
Wright works at Massachusetts General Hospital, where Natasha was treated, and said that everyone there was talking about it; they said they can never imagine what the family is going through.