Witnesses, first responders recount helping children hit, dragged by car on Lyell Avenue

July 12, 2019 06:17 PM

GATES, N.Y. (WHEC) — In a horrific accident Thursday night, two young children were run over and dragged by a car while being pulled in a wagon by their father. The 2-year-old girl and 10-month old boy remain in critical condition but they are expected to survive.

The accident happened along Lyell Avenue in Gates around 7 p.m. The driver who Gates Police say hit the children is a mother herself.


Police say Letoya Palmo, 29, had two unrestrained children in the backseat who began arguing. She turned around to yell at them and when she turned back around, she was about to hit a pole. Police say she turned the wheel, jumped the curb and hit the wagon that was carrying the two young children. Then, she hit the gas instead of the brake.

Surveillance video obtained by News10NBC shows the dad pulling his two small children through the parking lot of the plaza just seconds before the impact.

They are near the corner of Lyell Avenue and Rosemore Street when police say the car jumps the curb and rips the wagon out of the father's hand.

"At 40, 50 miles per hour, you take your eyes off the road and the car can travel pretty far," Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode said.

The wagon was dragged about 50 feet back into the same parking lot the father and kids had just passed through.  

Chandra Acharya, the owner of the salon in front of where the car finally came to rest, said she heard the father screaming for help.

"Once I saw the babies were underneath, I was like jumping and crying," she said. 

In a portion of the video, you can that so many others also heard those screams and came running.  

"They are trying to pull the car up and take the baby out, but nobody can," Acharya said.

They tried everything they could while they waited for firefighters to arrive. 

"I felt like my babies were there when that happened," Acharya said. "I felt those babies are mine and that's why I was jumping and crying."

Gates firefighters were on another call down the street and arrived within a minute. Firefighters were able to get both children out within four minutes.  

"Just as the call was coming in, people had made their way down to us and were saying, hey, there are people trapped under the car," Lt. Jason Sullivan said. "We know we have a job to do. Our feelings and emotions are important, but at that moment, they take second seat to the job that needs to get done."

"It's emotional, but it doesn't change the job," Assistant Fire Chief Tim Golle said. "They need to be saved and they need it quickly. Afterward, we talk to each other. That's how we de-stress. We talk to each other about the situation, what we saw, what we did."

Palmo has been charged with reckless driving, failing to secure her children properly in car seats, and driving an uninspected car.  

"The question becomes: do those poor choices rise to the level of recklessness or some sort of criminal negligence," VanBrederode said.  "That's what we're trying to establish now."

Right now, the number one priority is the two children who were just out for a walk with their dad.

"They've got a long road ahead of them, more surgeries coming up, but at the end of the day, we're very optimistic that they're going to survive these injuries," VanBrederode said.


Jennifer Lewke

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