Police seek driver in near-fatal hit-and-run

METHUEN — Police are looking for a dark SUV they said struck and critically injured a young man last night.

Isaias Rivera, 20, of 86 Hazel Street, was fighting for his life last night, suffering from head trauma and internal injuries, after being hit on Woodland Street about 7 p.m.

Police Capt. Randy Haggar said Rivera was transported by ambulance from Lawrence General Hospital to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston because the weather prevented helicopter transportation.

Haggar urged the driver of the vehicle to come forward. He said the vehicle had a Massachusetts license plate.

“With the weather conditions, it’s an explainable accident and whoever’s involved should come forward,” Haggar said.

Eleni Varitimos has lived at 42 Woodland Street for more than 30 years, and has seen more than a dozen car crashes at her house. She figured it was another car accident when she and her husband, Kevin Higginbottom, heard a noise about 7 p.m.

“I said to him, ‘Go look,'” Varitimos said.

Outside was Rivera lying east to west across Woodland Street. Varitimos ran into the street to direct traffic while Higginbottom called 911.

“My concern was that he was going to be hit again because it was so dark,” Varitimos said. “I ran from side to side to stop traffic. It was kind of crazy.”

One driver pulled around Rivera, beeping the horn as he passed.

“I just found the whole scene shocking,” Varitimos said.

She added that many neighbors called out from their houses asking what they could do to help.

“It was kind of like the ying and the yang of good Samaritans,” Varitimos said.

Varitimos described Rivera as a “neighborhood kid.” She said Rivera was unconscious and breathing.

“That’s someone’s little boy and I can’t imagine what that would feel like to get that call,” said Varitimos, who has two boys with Higginbottom.

“It’s just a terrible disregard for another person’s safety,” Higginbottom said of the hit-and-run.

Varitimos and Higginbottom won’t let their two boys play in front of their house. The couple most recently had a car crash near their house last year on New Year’s Eve. The couple said it can sometimes take them between five and 10 minutes to cross the street.

“This is a horrible road,” Varitimos said. “It’s a straightaway. People come up from Lawrence and go bombing down here.”

Haggar said Woodland Street is one of the department’s most highly patrolled streets, and that the police write a lot of citations.