By Carlotta Mohamed
The father of a 17-year-old girl from Flushing who was killed in Whitestone by an elderly driver Monday said she was not on her cellphone when she entered the crosswalk.
An 88-year-old Flushing woman was arrested and charged after fatally striking Madeline Sershen in the crosswalk at the intersection of 16th Avenue and Utopia Parkway, police said.
Sheila Kahn-Prager, of 166th Street, was driving a 2005 Toyota traveling southbound on Utopia Parkway when she allegedly blew through a red light at about 10:30 a.m. and hit the St. Francis Prep student, police said.
Officers from the 109th Precinct responded to a 911 call and discovered Madeline on the pavement with severe head trauma. EMS transported her to New York Presbyterian Hospital in Flushing, where she was pronounced dead, according to authorities.
Madeline’s father, Eric Sershen, wrote a heart-wrenching post on Facebook saying, “Maddie’s phone was in her bag (not texting or listening to music) and I can only hope, she didn’t even see it coming.”
Police charged Kahn-Prager with failure to yield to a pedestrian, failure to exercise due care, and a traffic device violation after striking Sershen at the crosswalk.
Madeline’s father went on to describe his anguish over losing his daughter.
“After hugging her for 15 minutes as she lay dead in the ER and consoling the rest of the family, I went off to work to keep my mind busy. My phone was ‘blowing up’ from family and friends all day. It was rough,” he said.
Patrick McLaughlin, the principal at St. Francis Prep said the school will be in communication with the family to plan some kind of prayer service during the summer and will host a remembrance prayer service when school returns in the fall.
“Obviously, it’s a very difficult for everyone. We’ve been communicating with the staff, faculty and students from the website and the emergency calling system to get out the sad news,” McLaughlin said. “Maddie was a great student, very well liked, very quiet, but very well liked by everyone. This loss is felt by everyone.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up by PS 79 Francis Lewis School in Whitestone, where Madeline’s mother works.
“Madeline’s mother, Catherine, is a valued employee of the PS 79 school community and we cannot imagine the pain she and her family are feeling,” the GoFundMe page said. “While no amount of money can erase this horrible tragedy, we as a school community want to support Catherine and her family during this painful time. We are asking for donations to help ease the burden of funeral costs that the family will incur.”
As of Wednesday, more than $27,000 had been raised in one day, surpassing the fund-raiser’s $10,000 goal.
— Additional reporting by Julia Moro.
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha