Grief counselors to be on-site at Portage Central in wake of Times Square tragedy


PORTAGE, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The driver accused in the Times Square tragedy has officially been charged.

Police say 26-year-old Richard Rojas is accused of driving under the influence, plowing into pedestrians in Times Square.

23 people were hit overall, and two of the victims are from West Michigan.

We're learning early this morning Rojas was officially charged with murder, 20 counts of attempted murder, and aggravated vehicular homicide.

Among the victims of yesterday's crash, 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman--a graduate of Portage Central High School--was killed. Her sister, 13-year-old Ava Elsman--a student at Portage Central Middle School--was injured in the crash.

At Portage Central High School, staff is preparing to help students cope with this loss.

Alyssa Elsman is the second student with Portage Central ties to be killed this year. It's obviously a very tough thing for students here to deal with.

We are told grief counselors will be on hand to help them through the process.

Though the 18-year-old graduated last year, her friends say she left a lasting mark on the school.

They describe Alyssa as thoughtful, bright, and friendly.

She ran the school's muffin cart and helped friends get jobs with her at Sonic.

Portage Central Principal Eric Alburtus tells us they are prepared to make sure all of the students and staff here have the support they need to get through this difficult time, as they work to process this tragedy that hit too close to home.

"Just to think about, out of everyone in the world it's someone that you know and care about. It's weird to think about. There was nothing she could have done. it wasn't her fault at all," said Portage Central senior Tramaine Carmouche.

We are told Alyssa's dad, Tom Elsman rushed to New York Thursday night to be with her younger sister, 13-year-old Ava. She was also injured in the crash and is recovering right now after undergoing surgery.

Again, there will be support at Portage Central as students and staff return to class this morning.

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