Erinn Phelan '09 and Alma Guerrero '09 MD'13 were struck by a car and seriously injured in a hit-and-run accident in Brooklyn at 4:30 Sunday morning.
Phelan pushed Guerrero out of the way of the car, Alma's father Fidel Guerrero P'09 told the New York Daily News, and is currently in critical condition. Guerrero is stable, with non-life-threatening injuries, said Lt. John Grimpel of the New York Police Department.
Since the accident, Phelan has been surrounded by friends and family at her bedside in Kings County Hospital, according to friend Rob Warner '10.5.
Warner said Guerrero had a broken collarbone and may be released soon.
Phelan and Guerrero were crossing the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Prospect Place when a northbound 1993 green Acura Legend struck the two, according to the police report. The vehicle was found abandoned after the accident, according to police reports. The front windshield was smashed.
A cab driver, whom the Daily News identified as Muhammad, witnessed the incident and called the police, Grimpel said. Muhammad told the Daily News, "I heard a big boom. Then she took off. She started driving faster and (passed) me. It was a young woman driving."
Police sources searched for Cindy Jasmin, 31, the registered owner of the car, for more than two days before she agreed to speak with the NYPD. Detective John Sweeney of the NYPD confirmed to The Herald on Tuesday night that police had made contact with Jasmin, who hired a lawyer before meeting with detectives. Sweeney said Jasmin claims her sister was driving the vehicle when it struck Phelan and Guerrero. The case remains under investigation, with the warrant for the arrest of the perpetrator still outstanding.
"We can't assume anything," Sweeney said.
A large digital signboard has been placed at the scene of the accident, broadcasting a plea for tips.
Guerrero, who attends Alpert Medical School, was visiting Phelan, her roommate of three years, for the long weekend.
Phelan has been working as one of six coordinators for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's NYC Civic Corps, a volunteer initiative modeled on the Peace Corps.
Before she graduated last spring, Phelan explained her career choice to The Herald, saying, "As long as you do something you learn from and are passionate about, that's enough. It's a very freeing idea."
The women have received visits from prominent New York City figures, including Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Bloomberg. Grimpel said, explaining that Kelly visited the family "out of respect for a city employee."
Bloomberg, who was at Phelan's bedside Sunday evening, said in a statement, "When I spoke to Erinn's parents earlier today, I told them that as a father I can't begin to imagine what they are going through, but all of our prayers are with their dedicated and idealistic young daughter who's helping New York City answer President Obama's historic call to service."
The accident has drawn a flurry of media attention, but Grimpel said the police will handle the case like any other.
Though Fidel Guerrero told the Daily News that Phelan pushed his daughter "in order to save her," Phelan's immediate family has not yet spoken to the media.
The Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life confirmed that Reverend Janet Cooper Nelson has traveled to New York to be with the families.
"The Brown community is profoundly saddened by this tragedy," President Ruth Simmons said in a statement. "We embrace Erinn and Alma's families and extend to them our heartfelt concern and offers of assistance during this painful and challenging time."
"She is very well-loved," Warner said of Phelan. "We ask that people keep her in their thoughts and prayers."
The University learned of the accident Sunday afternoon, wrote Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn in an e-mail to The Herald. A community-wide message has not yet been released. When considering whether to send such a message, the University considers "a number of factors, including issues of safety and security; rights, rules and regulations with regard to privacy; the availability of facts; and the interests of students and family members," she wrote.
The accident comes fewer than 10 days after the death of freshman Avi Schaefer '13, who was killed in an alleged drunk driving incident near campus Feb. 12.
"This kind of senseless tragedy is always painful, but it is particularly jarring to our community coming on the heels of the recent heartbreaking incident," Quinn wrote.
At Brown, both Phelan and Guerrero were highly involved in student life. Phelan was an active member of the Undergraduate Council of Students, while both Phelan and Guerrero served as Secretaries General of Brown University Simulation of the United Nations, a high-school Model UN conference. They were both "strong, independent, luminous women," said Amelia Plant '10, who worked closely with them on Model UN.
"These are awful moments," said Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, who taught both women in a freshman seminar. "They are moments when the strength of the Brown community shows, but not moments you want to be tested by."
— With additional reporting by Brigitta Greene
An prior version of this article stated that Vice President of Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn wrote in an e-mail to The Herald that a community-wide message was not sent after Sunday's accident due to "a number of factors, including issues of safety and security; rights, rules and regulations with regard to privacy; the availability of facts; and the interests of students and family members." In fact, Quinn wrote that these are examples of factors considered when evaluating whether to send a community-wide message. Quinn did not write that these factors all applied in the case described in this article.