Girl, 12, Killed By Van: Family Remembers ‘A Beautiful Spirit’
One minute she was full of life. Playing with a friend on Monday afternoon, she was skipping and running like she did on her school’s track, with dreams of competing in the Olympic games alive in her mind. Then she was struck and killed by a “dollar van” on Rockaway Beach Boulevard.
The day after, the stunned family members of Emani Lewis, 12, gathered at her mother’s Hammels apartment at 84-10 Rockaway Beach Boulevard to grieve.
The girl’s mother, Tykeisha Nock, sat leaning back in a black office chair in her living room. Her stare was blank, like the rest of the faces that surrounded her. Visitors sat on a brown leather couch, some of them, beneath pictures of Emani – next to her collection of athletic trophies displayed on an end table.
“She was an angel on earth and I know she’s one in Heaven,” said Monique Bratton, a cousin who spoke on Nock’s behalf. The family, she said, was just beginning to plan a funeral for Emani with the help of Reverend Larry Shell of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Beach 86 Street, and long time family friend Reverend Evan Gray of Macedonia Baptist Church in Arverne.
Emani was playing with a friend on the boulevard at about 4:20 p.m. Monday when she began crossing the street northbound. She was hit by a 1998 Ford van headed east, according to a police report. Emani was taken to Peninsula Hospital Center where she was pronounced dead on arrival.
A bus driver who witnessed the accident said she was devastated by what she saw. “She was happy – skipping and all that,” said Irma Martinez, who was en route to Yeshiva Darchei Torah and saw Emani as she entered the street. The girl, Martinez said, crossed in front of her bus and was looking east for oncoming traffic. Emani could not have seen the van as it came from the west.
“He hit her so hard she flew up in the air,” Emani’s grief-stricken granduncle, Russell Bratton, told The Wave. “When her mother got there she was laying there lifeless like a rag doll.”
“She was very energetic, very fast. She wanted to be a track star, to go to the Olympics,” Russell said. “She was a beautiful child, a beautiful spirit. She would always spot me first,” he recalled, taking a moment as he struggled to hold back tears.
But his memory of Emani’s voice – how she would greet him by saying, “Hey Uncle Russell,” brought his emotions to the surface, and he cried.
Police allege the driver of the van, 18-year-old Jeremy Mitchell, was not licensed to operate the vehicle. Martinez said he swerved into oncoming traffic but could not avoid hitting the girl. Mitchell was issued three summonses, according to police.
Emani’s family continued to make funeral arrangements as The Wave went to press.