An SUV careened into a bus stop in front of a major New Jersey hospital early Tuesday, killing a 59-year-old hospital employee and demolishing the stop, officials say.
The driver, who apparently was alone in the SUV, ran away from the scene.
The victim was standing at the River Road bus stop near Hackensack Meridian Health Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen when the SUV jumped the curb and struck her about 6:30 a.m., authorities say.
She was pronounced dead at the scene. A hospital representative confirms she was an employee at Harborage Nursing Home, and two co-workers identified her as Luisa Valdez.
"Luisa was a beautiful person," said coworker Angel Miranda. "She got along with everyone. We were good friends."
The co-workers say Valdez had just gotten off the bus to go into work and was having a cigarette at the bus shelter when the car slammed into her. Another neighbor says he saw her in scrubs.
Valdez is a grandmother who has worked as a nursing assistant at Harborage for 25 years, the co-workers tell News 4. She is from North Bergen but had recently moved to Bayonne.
Police are still looking for the driver who ran away; the only description offered so far is that he's about 6-feet-4.
K9 units have been sent to search for him. While the car was not reported stolen, the driver is not the owner of the small black Hyundai SUV, law enforcement sources say.
Photos from the scene showed glass and other debris from the structure littering the sidewalk; the bus stop was so damaged it was nearly impossible to tell one had ever been there.
It wasn't immediately clear how many people were at the bus stop at the time.
River Road was closed for hours as authorities investigated.
A man who had been on his way to the bus stop shortly after the accident tells News 4 people often speed in the area.