Clarification: Andover police confirmed that the victim was a five-year-old girl on Wednesday afternoon. Earlier versions of this story said the child was six.
Witnesses to Tuesday’s Elm Square crash that left a five-year-old girl dead said the tragedy unfolded in a matter of seconds, leaving them helpless to react.
“I thought right away that the truck hit someone based on the sound,” said a woman who was at a stoplight in Elm Square when the accident happened. “We got out and got a little bit closer, and I saw fabric underneath the truck. I could tell then, for sure, that this was a person and thought right away that there was likely no way they survived.”
Officials have not released the name of the victim or driver but said the girl was from Andover. No charges have been filed as the investigation continues.
The woman, who asked Andover News not to publish her name, said she was among the many people who called 911 right after the accident happened at 5:15 p.m. She said a group of four, high-school-aged girls stopped at a red light directly across from the crash got out of a minivan, screaming.
Andover News is raising money through donations to a GoFundMe campaign for the child’s family.
The driver of the Sysco truck was “visibly distraught” after getting out of his vehicle. The driver stayed on scene and was cooperating with investigators. A bystander took two small children who were also in the crosswalk with the mother and child to benches near Elm Square Oyster moments after the crash. Police removed a small scooter from the scene as evidence.
“I just heard yelling and screaming,” Kyle Perry, who works at the Mobil gas station across the street, told NBC Boston. “I saw a woman holding a child with a helmet on.”
Word quickly spread — “within a minute or two” — to witnesses in Elm Square that the truck had hit a child. The woman said a first responder told her about 30 minutes after the crash the girl had died.
Andover police took witness statements on scene, and at least some of the witnesses were asked to go to the police station Tuesday night to give additional statements to the Essex County District Attorney’s office and the Massachusetts State Police accident reconstruction team, which are investigating the crash.
“I wish they did something about it.”
The Downtown intersection has drawn safety complaints from pedestrians and drivers. Andrea Arena told NBC Boston lights at the intersection allow vehicles to turn while crossing lights are illuminated for pedestrians.
“It’s busy all day long, there are a lot of businesses around here,” Andrea Arena said. “That intersection right there is not too safe. I wish they did something about it.”
MassDOT estimates 7,500 vehicles travel on Elm Street each day. The Andover Select Board unanimously approved a series of traffic-calming measures in December aimed at improving pedestrian safety in the neighborhood on Elm Street as it runs east from Downtown, but those safety measures did not extend to where Elm intersects with Main Street.
The improvements, including curb bump-outs, flashing beacons and new signs, followed the death of a 78-year-old woman who was hit and killed by a car last April.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan noted last week’s Annual Town Meeting approved funding for an Elm Square traffic study.
“The town will thoroughly assess this area and act to implement any improvements deemed necessary,” Flanagan said. “This work will begin immediately.”
Photo: Boston television news crew descended on Elm Square Wednesday morning (Dave Copeland/Andover News).