Visiting Pinoy family narrowly escapes Times Square tragedy

Lenn Almadin-Thornhill, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at May 19 2017 04:21 PM

MANHATTAN, New York - It was the screaming and the sound of bodies bouncing off the car that Martin Poblador cannot forget.

“Very close, very close. Actually, if I didn’t ask for directions we were right on the path of the car, 30 seconds after the car sped behind us, wow, very very thankful and lucky. It’s all sinking now how lucky we were,” said Poblador.

Poblador with his wife Cecille, their two sons Andres and Roque, and their nanny Mae Anceno are in New York City visiting from Mandaluyong. 

Around 12 o’clock, they just got off the subway on 42nd Street and 7th Avenue, when a car going the wrong way at high speed just missed them. Instead, it struck and injured 22 pedestrians, and killed a young woman, 18-year old Alyssa Elsman from Portage, Michigan, who was walking right in front of Poblador a few seconds before.

"I saw him driving down, 42nd, 43rd, 44th at full speed. He was just taking aim at big groups of people. He was trying to hit big groups of people on purpose," he said.

Richard Rojas, who was arrested after he crashed his car against a barrier, has been charged with one count of second-degree murder, 20 counts of attempted murder, and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, no Filipinos have been injured. 

But for the Pobladors, the scars they got from witnessing the horrific incident might take a while to heal.

Investigators are still trying to figure out why Rojas would go on a rampage in Times Square on Thursday afternoon, narrowly missing the Poblador family. 

Preliminary information, according to authorities, showed no terror connection. 

But the New York Police Department has increased patrols at different spots around the city.