People in a Staten Island neighborhood are remembering a grandmother as a hero today. Last night, just before 10pm on Holy Thursday, cops say 56-year-old Clara Almazo was walking home from church, crossing Cary Avenue in West Brighton with one of her daughters and her 8-year-old grandson Brian, when a hit-and-run driver struck her, sending her flying into the air 10-20 feet. Witnesses say it was the family-oriented Almazo’s selfless and quick thinking that saved little Brian; she pushed him out of the way just in time.
Almazo was taken to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead later that evening. Brian suffered a broken bone and is still in the hospital. Almazo’s son-in-law Frank Hernandez says he still doesn’t know his grandmother died. Today, people who live near Almazo on Elizabeth Street are distraught. Neighbors say she was like a grandmother to all the kids who lived there. Raquel Irizarry was crying when we met her, “She was a very sociable, very wonderful human being.”
Police are looking at surveillance video taken from a home near the scene to see how the tragedy unfolded. Cops say the driver, 40-year-old Brian McGurk, left the scene, and turned himself in 3 hours later. He was charged with leaving the scene of an accident, was unable to make his $50,000 bail today, and is spending the night at Riker’s Island. No one answered the door at his Westerleigh home. A police officer stood guard outside. McGurk’s Ford Escape sits in the driveway, it’s hood smashed in, it’s license plate hanging off.
McGurk has a clean record, but he made headlines last year when he won a legal case against his ex-wife, Dorothy. He had been legally obligated to pay her $850 a month in alimony because she was allegedly disabled and unable to work, but then he uncovered pictures and statements online that boasted about her belly-dancing. The divorce settlement was reversed.
McGurk is due back in court Wednesday, and District Attorney Daniel Donovan is investigating.