EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 13, 2014

Stroller dragged 100 feet under truck

'I thought the baby was done,' witness said

By Yadira Betances
ybetances@eagletribune.com

---- — LAWRENCE — Since Tuesday, Anna Rivera has been giving extra hugs and kisses to her 4-month-old daughter, Ivianah Figueroa — rejoicing in the miracle that she’s still alive.

Around 10 a.m. that day, the city resident was pushing Ivianah in a stroller on Merrimack Street, toward the intersection of South Union Street near the New Balance factory. Because the sidewalks hadn’t been cleared of snow, she was walking on the street.

As she was walking, Ivianah’s stroller got caught on the stepladder of a white box truck as it turned onto South Union Street. The truck dragged the stroller under it for about 100 feet toward the green Duck Bridge, until another driver forced the truck to stop.

“Every time I close my eyes, I see the stroller being dragged by the truck. It’s so surreal,” Rivera said. “My worse fear was that he would keep going. I didn’t know if he knew what was going on or if he had seen the stroller.”

While drivers honked their horns at the truck and passersby waved and screamed at the driver to get his attention, Rivera ran to the truck and started pounding her fist on the back to get it to stop.

Tim Melvin was driving behind the truck. Once he saw it was dragging the stroller, he drove around the truck and pulled in front of it.

“He (the truck driver) had no clue what was going on. He thought I was being a jerk,” said Melvin, who was out doing errands. “When I drove around the truck to stop it, I hesitated because I didn’t want him to drive forward. I just wanted him to stop before the baby fell off.”

Police said the truck is registered to CPINC of Chelsea. It was driven by Gilberto Lizardo of Chelsea, police said.

Melvin, a father of two, was relieved Ivianah is OK.

“All I could think of was that poor baby,” he said. “I was horrified and sick to my stomach about the whole thing. I thought that baby was done.”

According to a police report, when Officer Jeffrey Sapienza got to the scene, Rivera and her baby were being taken to the hospital so the child could be checked.

“Her mother was hysterical and in shock,” Melvin said. “I picked up the baby and tickled her chin to make sure she was fine.”

It was a nightmare for Rivera.

“I just cried and cried and felt like I was having a panic attack,” she said.

Melvin was also emotionally affected by the events.

“It was pretty scary,” he said. “If something had happened to her (the baby), I would have been in the hospital or the nut house.”

Rivera said she was out walking in the frigid temperatures because her car broke down two weeks ago.

She had bundled Ivianah up with several layers of clothing and wrapped her up with blankets — layers that kept the baby snug in the stroller and may have saved her life.

“If the sidewalk had been cleared, this never would have happened,’’ Rivera said. “They have to think that not everyone has a car and they have to make it accessible for people.’’

That stretch of sidewalk has since been cleared.

Mayor Daniel Rivera said the city has an ordinance requiring owners of homes and businesses to clean the sidewalks in front of their properties. However, the city has no system of fines or other ways to enforce the ordinance — something he hopes to remedy with the City Council in the near future, he said.

Interim police Chief James Fitzpatrick said no charges will be filed against the truck driver. Police were able to confirm witness accounts of the incident and show the driver was not at fault.

“I was shocked and relieved because it could have been worse,” said Fitzpatrick, adding people should avoid walking in the street as much as possible.

Attempts to reach the truck driver by phone were unsuccessful. The number listed for CPINC was disconnected.