The tragedy of a Bronx grandmother’s death from being impaled by a SUV over the weekend was compounded by the location where it took place — right outside the building in which she’d raised her family — grieving relatives told the Daily News on Sunday.
Paulina Nrecaj, 59, was walking to get pizza Friday when a man driving a 2016 Lexus swerved to avoid hitting a stopped van and jumped a sidewalk at the corner of Bronxdale and Cruger avenues in Pelham Parkway around 6:30 p.m., police said. Nrecaj was impaled onto a wrought iron fence.
”You have to understand our shock that it happened where we learned to ride our bikes and where she first met my baby while I held her in my arms,” said her daughter Diana Daka. “It was the most traumatic moment of my life.”
As the tragedy unfolded, the victim’s husband Frane Nrecaj was putting on his shoes to go for his nightly walk when a neighbor knocked on the door.
“She said that my wife had been hit by a car,” he recounted.
After running down to ground level, he found a neighbor holding his wife. She was bleeding from the nose, ears and mouth.
“Lots of bleeding,” the heartbroken husband said. “I tried to touch her. It was very terrible.”
Nrecaj was rushed to Jacobi Medical Center, where she later died.
The 45-year-old driver, who stayed with the vehicle at the scene, was taken to the same hospital in stable condition.
Witness Maria Silva described the crash as horrifying.
“The car was going very fast and, according to the guy, he lost control,” she said. “I got traumatized and come home crying and crying.”
The victim of Albanian descent immigrated to the United States from Yugoslavia when she was a child, family said.
“She taught me everything,” said Daka, one of the Nrecajs’ three children. “The mother, the wife and the woman I am today — it’s all because of her. She impacted everybody that she came across.
Despite her mother’s grisly death, she said, “All the good memories still overpower this one.”
Nrecaj’s 7-year-old granddaughter Millania Daka spent Sunday mourning her grandmother.
“This is really sad,” said the girl. “I’d always get ice cream with Nana. Chocolate and vanilla from across the street.”
The child, who regularly spends the night with her grandparents, said she’s still looking forward to traveling to the land of her grandmother’s birth next summer.
Nrecaj and her husband met at Orchard Beach and were married for 40 years. Frane Nrecaj described her as someone who “got along with everyone.”
“She’d been a beautiful person,” said Frane Nrecaj. “She tried the best for them.”
The victim’s younger sister Kristina Crejak said she served as a peacemaker in their family of 10 siblings growing up.
“She was [a] gentle, timeless and caring person,” said the sibling, 48. “She was one of a kind.”
In the wake of the tragic death, Crejak hopes the street can be renamed to reflect her sister’s legacy.
“We want justice,” she said. “That’s all we want. That’s what she deserves.”
The driver did not immediately face charges.
“I’m not angry with the driver but he never should be in the street [driving],” said Frane Nrecaj. “I don’t know how they let him drive. I know it’s something wrong. To me, it’s murder, it’s not an accident.”
“She didn’t deserve what happened to her,” added her niece, Nikole Rajgor. “It was such a cruel death.”