Elderly woman killed crossing Mass. Ave. in Arlington

ARLINGTON — From his home along Massachusetts Avenue, Larry Roop heard a loud thump from the corner, breaking the evening quiet. No squealing brakes or shattered glass. Just an ugly thud.

“It’s a terrible sound,” Roop said. “I knew someone had been hit.”

Roop said he rushed outside to find an elderly woman lying in the road, critically injured. She had been struck by a car around 10 p.m. Thursday as she used a walker to make her way across the wide street.

She was barely conscious, her breathing ragged. Roop and an employee of a nearby convenience store held her head and tried to comfort her.

“We said: ‘We’re here. We’re here,’ ” Roop recalled from the scene Friday morning. “We told her help was coming.”

Paramedics rushed the woman to the hospital, where she died. She was later identified as Elba Ortiz-Delgado, 77, of Boston.

“She was fighting, and I thought she was going to make it,” said Roop, who found out Friday morning that she had died. “It’s very sad.”

The driver, Paul S. Giragosian, also of Arlington, was cited for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and for driving without a license. The crash is under investigation, and additional charges may follow, police said.

“Those charges will likely be upgraded,” said Frederick Ryan, Arlington’s police chief.

Giragosian, 67, was not impaired, Ryan said, and stopped after the accident. Investigators will seek to determine whether he was speeding.

“This is a heartbreaking experience for the victim’s loved ones and for the community,” Ryan said.

Maureen Stephens, who arrived at the scene just moments after the accident, said Giragosian and his wife were distraught.

“They were besides themselves,” she said. “I can’t even imagine what they are going through.’’

Stephens, an Arlington resident who knows the couple, said they told her they never saw the woman. They were driving home from the mall after Christmas shopping, she said.

Police said they were not sure what brought Ortiz-Delgado to Arlington. But Stephens and other residents said they had often seen the woman walking through the neighborhood, collecting cans for deposit money.

“I feel horrible about it,” Stephens said.

She was slight of build and seemed to speak little English, they said. She wore several layers of ragged clothing to stay warm.

No one knew her name or where she lived in Boston. Officials at two major Boston homeless shelters said they did not know Ortiz-Delgado.

Giragosian, who could not be reached for comment, has a lengthy driving record. He has been involved in three crashes in which he was found to be at fault and has been cited for speeding five times, according to state records. In 2001, he was cited for reckless driving in Connecticut.

His license expired in June.

Pedestrians said that crossing the busy, broad street — by Orvis Road near the Capitol Theatre — is almost always difficult, even with the crosswalk. Drivers often zoom through the crosswalk without slowing, they said.

“Drivers aren’t trained to slow down,” Roop said. “It was just a matter of time.”

On Friday, many cars drove through the crosswalk without stopping, even when pedestrians had started across. Some that did stop were honked at from trailing cars.

At night, pedestrians face even greater danger, neighbors said.

Red, hand-held flags have been placed at the crossing to give pedestrians greater visibility. But on Friday, they went unused.

Doris Shoer, 81, waited patiently on the curb to cross. She had navigated the street many times before and knew cars could not be trusted to stop, so she waited until the light down the street turned red, and the road was relatively clear.

“You’re still taking a chance,” she said.