Staten Island NY April 7 2012 The family of a Staten Island woman killed in a hit-and-run wreck blasted the cowardly driver Friday while hailing their hero matriarch for saving her grandson’s life.
Brian McGurk, who was reportedly speeding before the Thursday night crash, disappeared for three hours after running down Clara Almazo as she walked home from church with her little grandchild.
“I don’t know why he left,” said the dead woman’s weeping brother, Francisco Almazo, at the family’s Staten Island home. “If you have an accident, you don’t leave the scene of that accident.”
McGurk, 40, wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and a long beard, said nothing at a Staten Island court hearing.
Investigators were trying to retrace McGurk’s path in the hours before the fatal crash to determine if alcohol was a factor, a police source said.
The 57-year-old victim, her daughter Berta and her 8-year-old grandson were headed home from evening church services on Holy Thursday when the speeding Ford Escape screeched into sight.
Witnesses described Almazo saving the little boy’s life by pushing him out of harm’s way on Cary Ave. near Roe St.
The child, Brian Herrera-Ramirez, sat stunned on the curb as the SUV dragged his screaming grandmother down the block, witnesses said. The victim was described as a devout Catholic and a devoted mother and grandmother.
The grandson remained in Richmond University Medical Center recovering from a broken bone, with his parents there Friday keeping a bedside vigil.
After plowing into the woman and narrowly missing the boy, McGurk sped off — and took three hours to turn himself in, prosecutors said.
The suspect told cops that he was involved in an accident and “struck something,” apparently unaware of the carnage left in his wake.
His surrender “is not going to cure the pain and sadness of what he did to our family,” said Francisco Almazo. “I feel bad. Truthfully, I feel pain. It’s not easy.”
Prosecutors said damage to his vehicle was consistent with what happened in the 9:50 p.m. fatal wreck.
McGurk was arraigned Friday on a charge of leaving the scene of an accident.
The lifelong Staten Island resident has no previous record, his lawyer said during the hearing. McGurk was jailed after he could not make the $50,000 bail.
McGurk made headlines last year by scoring a major win in a divorce case after proving his ex-wife was belly-dancing despite her claims of disability.
Almazo, the daughter and the grandson were just around the corner from their home on Elizabeth St. in West Brighton when the accident occurred, family and officials said.
“She pushed the kid away,” said neighbor Mercedes Fuentes, 54. “He was on the ground.”
“That was heroic of her, thinking about the boy until the last second,” said family friend Arturo Cabrera, 45. “They were coming from church. They are very religious people.”
Almazo, a homemaker originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, was in traumatic arrest when emergency responders found her. She died a short time later at Richmond University Medical Center.
Marcos Antonio Ramos, 27, said he gave surveillance video of the accident to police.
“You see very clearly the impact,” he said of the footage captured on tape. “A black SUV hit her, and you see her belongings, like food, going up the air.”
He said the impact sent the woman soaring nearly 20 feet.
“You can see that she pushes the boy out of the way,” he said. Almazo left behind six grown children and several grandkids, her son-in-law said.