NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, November 1, 2015, 10:15 PM
Natalya Perez and daughter Sanaya, who was saved from being hit by a car by her grandfather, attended a vigil Sunday.
Heartbroken relatives, friends and neighbors filled a Bronx street Sunday night to mourn a 10-year-old girl and her grandfather who were killed by an out-of-control car while trick-or-treating the night before.
The entire block along a stretch of Morris Park Ave. was closed to traffic as the still-shocked mourners held a candlelight vigil to honor the girl, the grandfather and another man who was shepherding his sister through the neighborhood when the Dodge Charger fatally slammed into him.
“My dad was an amazing man,” said Natalya Perez, whose father, Louis, and daughter Nyanna perished when the car jumped the curb as the sun was setting Saturday night.
“He helped me raise my children with love. He cleaned, cooked, took them to school every day.
“You all were amazed at how he just walked them to and from school,” Perez told the sympathetic crowd. “Whether it was rain, sleet, hail, snow, just to help me while I was working to provide a better life to my kids.
The mother of Kristian Leka, Bronx fatal car accident victim, cried at a vigil Sunday.
“Nyanna was the best daughter in the world,” the grief-stricken mom said. “She was gorgeous, she was sweet, she was a little bit shy. But she was going to be a star. She loved to dance to music videos.”
Perez set up an online fund-raiser to cover funeral costs. Louis, 65, managed to push Nyanna’s sisters, Sanaya, 8, and Yasmina, 3, out of the way of the car that vaulted the sidewalk and hit the group.
The crash also killed Kristian Leka, 24, who was accompanying his little sister trick-or-treating.
Detectives were investigating whether the driver, Howard Unger, 52, suffered a seizure before causing the Halloween horror, a police source said.
On a GoFundMe page, Perez, of Morris Park, remembered Nyanna and Louis, writing her father, a Vietnam vet who received a Purple Heart, “was a hero till the end.”
Nyanna Aquil (left) and her grandfather, Vietnam veteran Louis Perez, 65, who were both killed in the Halloween car crash.
“He died saving his granddaughters from death. He died doing what he loved: spending his precious time with his family,” Perez said.
Earlier in the day, family ushered Yasmina, who suffered a neck injury, out of Jacobi Medical Center.
“I have a niece, she’s only 5,” said neighbor Eugenio Vega, 52. “It’s kind of hard. I don’t want to think about it, if we would have been out here …”
Mayor de Blasio faced criticism from transportation safety advocates who said the crash proved his Vision Zero plans for fewer pedestrian fatalities were failing.
People gather at the scene of the tragic Halloween crash in the Bronx on Sunday.
“This tragedy underscores the need for police to focus much more of the Vision Zero effort on reckless driving, and less on admonishing pedestrians to wear bright-colored clothing,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “New York City cannot reach its Vision Zero goal without consistent enforcement to change the culture of reckless and careless driving.”
De Blasio pledged a thorough investigation.
“We do not accept tragedies like this as inevitable. This could be any of our families. Each of us must contribute to making this a city where everyone, especially children, can walk our streets safely,” he said.
Meanwhile, relatives of Unger’s said they had no idea what could have caused him to lose control. His mother, Shirley Unger, said he did not have a history of seizures or other health issues and is devastated by Saturday’s events.
“Not good at all. He’s not good at all,” Shirley, 85, said of her son.
(L to R) Nyanna, who died, and sisters Yasmina and Sanaya.
Kristian Leka, 24, was killed in the crash. He was accompanying his litter sister trick-or-treating.
“I don’t know what happened. I have no idea.”
Unger’s sister, Lisa Malev, also said the cause was a mystery, and called the crash an unthinkable tragedy.
“It’s awful. It’s such a sad situation. Nobody should have to go through this,” Malev said.
Malev’s husband, Daniel, said Unger lives with his mother and cares for her. He is between jobs.
“I’ve never known of him driving bad,” said Doris McNair, the desk attendant in his Co-op City building. “He takes good care of his mother. She always brags about him.”
Miriam Perez, Louis’ wife, said she hoped to forgive Unger.
“I hope not to harbor anger (toward him), but it’s a pain. It’s a deep pain,” she said.
“(Louis) was a gentle giant. He loved those granddaughters.”
With Anton K. Nilsson