TAUNTON – If Thursday night’s hit-and-run death of 17-year-old Nicholas Silva-Thomas on Bay Street goes unsolved it will have been the second such incident in Taunton during the past five years.
On June 2, 2006 a 14-year-old boy named Odesys Rivera was struck and killed just after 10 p.m. — reportedly by someone driving a small, red car — while walking away from the Silver City Skateland just off of Somerset Avenue.
No one was ever arrested for the crime.
“I chased leads for two weeks and couldn’t find anyone,” said Taunton Police Sgt. Carlos Silva, who is also investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Silva-Thomas.
The Rivera case, Silva said, eventually went cold. But he says he’d be willing to re-open the case if new information surfaces.
For City Council President Sherry Costa Hanlon, news of the hit-and-run death of Silva-Thomas — who reportedly was killed while skateboarding in the street in front of Watson Pond State Park — hit a particularly personal chord.
She said she lost her only brother in 1994 when, at the age of 40, he died in western Massachusetts after his vehicle was struck by a hit-and-run driver.
Costa Hanlon said she was deeply moved when she’d learned from Angela Santos, who works as fiscal agent for Taunton’s Department of Public Works, that her husband Stephen had walked over to Thursday night’s crash scene to offer help.
“I know what it’s like,” Costa Hanlon said, referring to losing a loved one as a result of a hit-and-run driver.
“It meant so much to me,” she said, hearing that Santos had left his house to walk over to where Silva-Thomas was lying mortally wounded.
Costa Hanlon said she considers Santos no less than a “hero to me. I can’t imagine what he saw.”
“At least,” she said, Silva-Thomas had “a little bit of solace” and wasn’t left alone “like a piece of trash.”
Costa Hanlon also said she’s long been a proponent of toughening laws pertaining to hit-and-run offenders, especially in cases involving fatalities.
Angela Santos said she and her husband had just arrived home to their Land’s End at Sabbatia condo and had their windows open to let in some cool air.
“It was the first time in two months,” she said.
Suddenly, she said, there was a crash. And although Santos says it didn’t sound like two vehicles making contact, “I knew there was some kind of impact.”
The next thing she heard was the sound of “petrified screaming” from a woman — who witnesses said turned out not to be the hit-and-run driver, but instead a driver who hit the guardrail trying to avoid hitting the prone Silva-Thomas.
Stephen Santos said he immediately walked outside and found traffic backing up on the road and a group of people at Silva-Thomas’s side trying to administer first aid.
Santos said he could tell the victim “was in serious shape.”
Adding to the sense of calamity, he said, was the sight and sound of a young woman, the driver of the second vehicle, crying and screaming “It wasn’t me, someone else did it.”
Silva-Thomas’s friend, meanwhile, was pacing “like in a daze,” Stephen Santos, 55, said.
“There wasn’t much I could do,” he said, adding that within five minutes police and fire personnel were on scene.
“I feel bad that someone’s son or brother is dead,” Santos said.
He also said the city needs to do something about daytime visitors to Watson Pond State Park who insist on parking on the side of the road instead of paying five dollars to drive in.
“That’s another tragedy waiting to happen,” Santos said.