STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Ashley Rodriguez would’ve celebrated her 16th birthday next week. But instead of a party, her family is left planning a funeral.
Police say Rodriguez, a Great Kills resident, was killed Sunday night in a crash on Hylan Boulevard in Pleasant Plains, along with 15-year-old Jesie Gil and 16-year-old Fernanda Gil. All three were passengers in a red Ford Mustang, driven by a 16-year-old male who remains in critical but stable condition Monday.
“It was all planned out… but now she won’t experience this moment,” wrote Rodriguez’ older sister, Charle Gonzalez, in a GoFundMe post at https://www.gofundme.com/f/8dkuf-ashley-rodriguez, created to help with funeral expenses.
A fundraising account also has been established for Jesie and Fernanda Gil at https://www.gofundme.com/f/3-teens-killed-in-car-accident-staten-island.
According to a statement from the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, officers responded to the intersection of Hylan Boulevard and Richard Avenue just before 8:50 p.m., where the Mustang had collided with a 2017 GMC Yukon.
The 16-year-old operator of the Mustang, who was transported by EMS to Staten Island University Hospital in Ocean Breeze, had not been identified by authorities Monday afternoon. He had a learner’s permit but was supposed to be accompanied by a licensed adult to operate a vehicle, a law-enforcement source explained Monday.
Rodriguez was a student at New Dorp High School and one of four siblings. Her older brother, a member of the NYPD, declined to comment Monday on behalf of the family outside the Rodriguez home, except to say, “it’s weird being on the other side of this.”
‘YOU COULD TELL IT WAS KIDS’
The four teens in the Mustang had just left a friend’s birthday gathering in Tottenville — accompanied by a Honda Civic also occupied by teens from the party — to grab snacks at a nearby store, according to a friend of the Gil family who also was at the party.
“It was my brother’s birthday” said Jonathan Mora, 19, of Tottenville, who owns the Civic which he said his younger brother was driving. He said that based on his brother’s account, after both cars left the store parking lot, the Mustang “zoomed” off ahead of the Civic. By the time his brother reached Hylan Boulevard and Richard Avenue, “he saw Jesie’s body on the ground.”
Mora said he and everyone else at the party learned within minutes what happened and rushed to the scene.
“The bodies were covered when we got there, but you could tell it was kids,” he recounted in a hushed tone.
FRIENDS AS MUCH AS SIBLINGS
On Monday, extended family gathered at the siblings’ home in Dongan Hills. Their father cried uncontrollably on the front steps, a half-burnt cigarette at his feet. He deferred questions to Mora.
A neighbor — who was taken aback by the news, asking twice if it was one or both of the siblings who died — said her interactions with the family had always been pleasant.
Jesie Gil was a student at Tottenville High School, with aspirations of assuming a striker position on the school’s soccer team, Mora said.
Tottenville soccer coach Ron Nathanson said Monday he hadn’t met Jesie Gil yet, but wanted to extend his condolences to the family.
“[Tottenville] has experienced this sort of thing in the past,” Nathanson said. “It’s devastating.”
A friend of the siblings who created the GoFundMe account described Jesie as a “shy person, but yet very funny at times.” She said Fernanda was “the most kind hearted, thoughtful, most caring person I’ve ever known.”
Fernanda Gil, known affectionately as “Fer,” was attending New Dorp High School. Friends said she at one point was involved in gymnastics.
By all accounts, the two were friends as much as they were siblings.
“They were always smiling and always greeting everyone with love,” Mora said. “They barely just started high school.”
Lorenzo Molinarl, 17, of Dongan Hills, visited the crash site along with two friends Monday afternoon to honor the memory of classmate Fernanda Gil.
He described the siblings as “just good people, always happy and always down to do whatever.”
“Speeding is not fun, it’s definitely not cool to f—— do,” he said. “Go the speed limit.”
The 47-year-old man driving the Yukon was taken into custody for allegedly having a suspended driver’s license and charges are pending, according to the police statement.
The Yukon driver and his four passengers, women ages 44 and 19, a 23-year-old man and an 11-year old girl, all sustained minor injuries and were transported by EMS to Staten Island University Hospital in Ocean Breeze.
A preliminary investigation determined that the Mustang was traveling east on Hylan Boulevard at an “unsafe speed” while the Yukon was traveling west on Hylan Boulevard, according to the police statement.
As the Yukon was making a left turn onto southbound Richard Avenue, the Mustang swerved from the left lane into the right lane, police said.
The Yukon then struck the driver’s side of the Mustang, police said.
— Shaina McLawrence contributed to this report.