At 14 years old, Brittany Vega was starting her first year at Wantagh High School and getting her first taste of independence, her family said.
Wednesday, she walked the nearly two miles to school instead of waiting for the bus. Then, despite being forbidden by her family to cross busy Sunrise Highway, she tried to do just that – and never made it.
The freshman was struck by a westbound car as she tried to make it across the six-lane highway at the intersection of Wantagh Avenue at 6:20 a.m., police said.RECOMMENDED READINGFor more on this story visit News12 Long Island
She was pronounced dead 35 minutes later at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, leaving behind a grieving family who had thought she was headed safely to school on the bus.
“She wasn’t allowed to cross that big road,” her mother, Sandi Vega, said at the family home on Wells Avenue, just a few blocks south of the crash scene. “I was very protective that way,” she said, crying.
The oldest of four siblings, Brittany had recently taken on more responsibilities while her parents were occupied caring for her 2-year-old brother, who was recovering from third-degree burns after tripping into a campfire over the Labor Day weekend, Sandi Vega said.
“Brittany’s been such a good girl. She always got up and did the responsible thing. As far as I knew, she was honest in going to the bus stop,” she said.
Her father, Daniel, said his daughter was starting to be more and more independent as she started high school.
Nassau County police said Brittany was struck by a 2004 Toyota Camry as she headed north across Sunrise. Police did not identify the 36-year-old driver, who stopped and remained at the scene. Police said there appears to be no criminality involved.
The driver seemed to be “devastated,” said gas station owner Ahmer Saeed, who saw the accident’s aftermath unfold near his gas station. He said Brittany appeared to be walking against the light, according to his surveillance video. “She was running to avoid traffic,” he said. “The poor kid.”
District Superintendent Lydia Begley issued a statement saying the community was “extremely saddened by the tragic loss” and counseling was made available to students.
Brittany was on her middle school swim team and wanted to become a forensic scientist, her aunt Darlene Vega said.
Her musical talent was praised by friends who stopped by the accident site to leave votive candles and flowers. “She played guitar for our sixth-grade class,” said friend Nicolette Mallios, 14, a freshman. Caitlin Kaminski, 16, a sophomore, called Brittany “really free-spirited.”
Michael Garcia, 16, a junior, grew up next door to the Vega family before they moved to Wells Avenue. “Our parents used to joke that we would get married and live next door again,” he said. “I will never forget her.”