Loved ones are mourning a woman who died protecting her children from a DUI driver who jumped a curb and struck a pole in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia Saturday night, according to police.
A makeshift memorial was placed on the sidewalk along Aramingo Avenue and East Tioga Street. Rosa Lydia Rojas, also known as "Linda," was walking in the area Saturday night at 8:47 p.m. with her 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son after getting food. As the family continued walking, a Dodge Durango jumped the curb.
Family members say Rojas pushed her daughter out of the way but was struck by the Durango along with her son.
"She was a hero because at least she pushed her daughter," Annie Lopez, Rojas' aunt, told NBC10. "She tried to protect them."
After striking the woman and her son, the driver of the Durango struck a light pole as he drove back off the sidewalk onto the street, police said. Rojas' son fell to the right of the vehicle. Rojas however was trapped underneath the Durango. She was then run over and ejected from under the vehicle's left side.
"The mom was unconscious on the floor," Pablo Rivera, who witnessed the aftermath of the crash, told NBC10. "Her son was a couple feet away."
Rojas was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital where doctors pronounced her dead at 9:19 p.m. Her son was taken to St. Christopher's Hospital and treated for a head injury, broken leg and abrasions. Doctors listed him in stable condition. Rojas' daughter was not injured.
Police said the driver of the Durango -- identified by police as 39-year-old Ryan McHugh of St. Denis Drive in Philadelphia -- got out of the vehicle and tried to blend in with witnesses following the crash. Rivera told NBC10 he and another man went after him.
"We just ran towards the car to stop him from going anywhere," Rivera said. "And then he got out the car. We knew he was looking for someone so that's why he stopped."
Rivera told NBC10 McHugh walked toward an area of bushes and was taken into custody by responding police officers.
"So the cops were coming at the same time so we told the cops, 'That's the guy right there. That's the guy who did the hitting,'" Rivera said. "And the cops grabbed him and put him in the car."
Investigators believe the driver was trying to discard drug paraphernalia in the bushes and they also say they found syringes in his vehicle. McHugh was charged with homicide by vehicles, aggravated assault while DUI, involuntary manslaughter, DUI and other counts and sent to prison on $650,000 bail.
Court records don't list an attorney who could comment on McHugh's behalf.
Rojas' family and friends spent Sunday gathering at the sidewalk where she died.
"I feel like I'm close to her," Eugenio Rojas, her father, told NBC10.
Rojas thanked the witnesses and police who helped capture the suspect.
"If it wasn't for them and the cops the guy probably would've gotten away," he said. "I'm happy they stepped up to the plate. I thank them all."