Hit-run driver kills mother of two in North Philadelphia

Veronica Santiago was hanging out with her cousin and friends near 5th and York streets in North Philadelphia on Tuesday night when she decided to walk the few yards to a nearby Chinese takeout.

That decision cost her her life.

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A hit-and-run driver ran a red light and mowed down the 26-year-old single mother of two as she crossed at the intersection.

Santiago, of Mount Vernon Street near 16th in Spring Garden, died at Temple University Hospital fewer than four hours after the 8:40 p.m. collision.

Yesterday, as grieving relatives set up a memorial at the corner where Santiago was hit, they railed against the inhumanity of a motorist who would leave a young woman crumpled and bleeding to death in the street.

"He left two kids without a mother. He could have at least stopped," said Mari Garcia, 30, Santiago's sister-in-law.

Vanessa Velasquez, Santiago's cousin, wept when describing how a pleasant night so quickly ended in tragedy.

"We were just hanging out, and she said: 'I'll be back; I'm going to go to the [Chinese] store.' A minute later, I heard a loud boom. I thought a car had hit another car. But then people were screaming, and I'm running toward her and checking her vital signs," said Velasquez, 22, adding that the impact of the collision threw Santiago under another car.

Relatives mourned Santiago as a devoted mother whose life revolved around her 8-year-old son, Xavier, and 6-year-old daughter, Zayna. The children now are with Santiago's mother, Garcia said.

They also couldn't help wondering whether the hit-and-run driver fled because of intoxication. That would be ironic, because Santiago worked as a receptionist at a drug-and-alcohol addiction center on Broad Street near Lehigh Avenue, Velasquez said. She was working toward becoming a nurse, she added.

Sgt. Lawrence Ritchie, of the Accident Investigation District, said investigators have no evidence suggesting that the driver was intoxicated.

"Since we don't have [the driver], there's no way to know," he said.

Investigators are checking surveillance cameras of area businesses to see if any captured the collision, he added.

Witnesses told police that the hit-and-run vehicle was a white or tan Ford F150 pickup with tinted windows and damage to the passenger-side door. It was last reported seen heading east on Cumberland Street from 5th.

Tipsters are urged to call investigating Officer Sean Hughes or the Accident Investigation District at 215-685-3180 or -3181.