VINELAND — A 14-year-old girl described as “loving” and “amazing” by her childhood friends died Wednesday morning after being struck by two cars while crossing Main Road to get to her bus stop.
City police said Alexa Strittmatter was hit by a car heading north on Main Road and then by a vehicle heading south on the busy city street shortly before 7 a.m.
Alexa, a freshman at Vineland High School North, died later at Inspira Medical Center Vineland of her injuries, which she suffered just a short distance from her Main Road home, police said. Neighbors identified the Main Road bus stop as about halfway between Elmer Road and Magnolia Avenue.
Shelly Watts, 14, who said she has been friends with Alexa since elementary school, said Alexa would often wait for a break in traffic on Main Road before running across the street to her bus stop.
“This time, she didn’t make it,” Shelly said as tears ran down her cheeks.
Shelly said she talked to Alexa’s sister, Tess, after the accident. Watts said Tess recalled how she lay next to her injured sister on Main Road, repeatedly telling her that “everything will be all right.” Tess said she asked her sister to squeeze her hand while they waited for help, Shelly said.
Alexa would usually walk to the bus stop with Tess and her brother, Richard, Shelly said. No information was available Wednesday as to whether they saw the accident.
An engine from the Vineland Fire Department was on the scene about 2:45 p.m. Wednesday to wash down marks left on Main Road as part of the accident investigation. Firefighters said they were asked by the Police Department to remove the markings so they could no longer be seen by the Strittmatter family.
The Strittmatter family declined comment.
Wednesday’s incident shocked students and staff at Vineland High School North, where Alexa’s friends said she belonged to at least the art club and Youth to Youth organization.
“Alexa was a lovely young woman and a valued member of the Vineland High School North family, and her presence will be sorely missed,” Principal Mario Olsen said. “We at the Vineland High School North family grieve with Alexa’s family and friends and send our deepest condolences to them.”
Superintendent Mary Gruccio said the district has grief counselors available for students and staff.
“This is a horrific tragedy,” Gruccio said, adding that the school district is cooperating with the Police Department’s investigation of the accident.
Police said that investigation involves whether any charges will be lodged against the drivers of the cars that hit Alexa.
Police identified the driver of the first car as Norberto Rodriquez-Centeno, 35, of Hammonton. They said the second car was driven by 66-year-old city resident Marthenia Gaymon.
Mayor Ruben Bermudez said the accident occurred near what he called the “real bad intersection” of Main and Elmer roads. He said money was appropriated years ago, when he was on City Council, to install a traffic signal at the intersection. He said no traffic signal was ever installed.
“That’s something we have to look at as soon as possible,” Bermudez said, adding he had intended to talk to the city engineer’s office Tuesday about safety improvements for the area.
Shelly and another of Alexa’s friends, Juliet Brown, 14, were both crying as they stood at the end of the driveway.
Along with being classmates, Juliet said she, Shelly and Alexa all went to dance classes together.
“She was so beautiful,” Juliet said of the way Alexa danced.
Juliet said she learned of Alexa’s death while at Vineland High School North and said the news upset her so much that her father picked her up and took her home.
“She was just amazing,” Juliet said of Alexa.
By Wednesday night her friends started a Twitter campaign to get Strittmatter's favorite band One Direction to recognize her on Twitter. To help out you can tweet using the hashtag #1dforalexa.
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