By Sarina Trangle, Rikki Reyna and Wes Parnell
A 26-year-old man on his way to work was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver in Brooklyn Sunday morning, police said.
The victim, identified by relatives as Jose Contla was hit by a black sedan near 19th Ave. and 86th St. in Bensonhurst just before 7:30 a.m., cops said. The impact sent him hurtling 50 feet down a sidewalk before he came to rest in a driveway, shocking surveillance video viewed by the Daily News shows. Advertisement
Contla was rushed to Maimonides Medical Center but could not be saved, police said. He had just parked his own car around the corner from the Mexican bakery and restaurant where he worked when he was struck.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” said Antonio Rodriguez, 26, a lifelong friend who had plans to celebrate Contla’s recent birthday with him. “This guy used to feed me. He used to take care of me like he was my dad — and he was younger than me.” Contla;s birthday was Jan. 29.
The victim’s heartbroken mother, Maria Contla, 59, was devastated, saying her youngest son was going to school and hoped to be a lawyer.
“I’m very very sad,” she said in Spanish, through a translator. “We’re a very close family, very united. He took care of me all the time. He was smart, and kind to everyone. And he worked very hard. He worked in the bakery and he went to school the other days. He was on the honor roll. He wanted to be a lawyer.”
She said Contla was the youngest of her children, and along with his wife of six years, lived with her in Sunset Park.
“A friend called his wife at the accident and told her it was Jose because they recognized his shoes on the street,” she said. “They saw his belongings. His wife called my daughter and she told me. I’m very angry that the driver just left him. I want to know who did it. I want to know why they didn’t stop to try to help him? Why didn’t they at least call the cops? I want the police to find this person. We’re distraught.”
The sedan zoomed off south on 19th Ave., according to police. Cops are looking for the vehicle and its driver.
“He was really trying to pursue a nice career,” Rodriguez said. “He was trying to change, be better for himself. He was trying to make his mom proud.”
“He was never down — he was always a high spirited person,” he added.[More New York] Brazen bandits target e-bike deliverymen along Queensboro Bridge »
Rodriguez raced to the hospital after getting the news, where he tried to console the victim’s relatives. “They’re all torn apart,” he said. “Nobody wants to bury their kid.”
“He was a good guy, never a problem,” the shocked brother, Emanuel Contla, 36, said. Jose worked at his brother’s Panaderia la Autentica as a chef, at the sales counter and to generally help out, friends said.
Melina Valenti, who has lived in Bensonhurst for 50 years, said she heard a bang and looked out her window.[More New York] Man walking on East Village subway tracks survives being struck by train »
“I heard the impact,” she said. “When I looked out it was going so fast all I could tell was it was a small black car.”
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“He braked, he paused, and then when I looked out, he just kept going,” she said of the driver.
Jesus Orta, a longtime friend of the victim, urged the driver to turn themselves in as he helped set up a memorial of white flowers and candles at the scene of the crash.[More New York] Body found hanging from tree in Central Park »
“We got to take full responsibility for what we cause, no matter what the cost is,” Orta, 25, said.
There were 14 pedestrians killed citywide this year through Feb. 18, according to city data, compared to 17 during the same period last year.
Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative aims to eliminate preventable traffic deaths in the city by 2024 through measures including tougher laws and redesigned streets.