Aunt of 6-year-old girl killed by van in Town of Tonawanda remembers her niece

TOWN OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — The aunt of 6-year-old Carmella Lopez tells us her niece was playing with her neighborhood friends Monday evening. That’s when she says Lopez suddenly darted into the street and was tragically hit by a van.

“I did everything I could to be the best aunt to her,” said Serena Calato. “And to protect her from everything I could.”

Serena Calato says her niece was a beautiful, joyful and spunky light in the lives of so many.

A kindergartner at Hoover Elementary, Carmella loved school and attending dance classes.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Calato. “I still can’t believe it.”

Calato wasn’t there at the time of the incident but is sharing what Carmella’s mother witnessed.

She says Carmella was playing at her neighborhood friends’ home on Canterbury Lane.

That’s when she says a dollar bill the six-year-old was holding flew out of her hand and she chased it into the street.

6-year-old girl killed after being struck by vehicle in Tonawanda

Town of Tonawanda police say the young girl was hit by a Ford Transit van being driven west by an 84-year-old man just before 8 p.m.

Carmella’s mother watched the horrifying scene unfold.

“He said the sun was in his eyes,” said Calato. “He didn’t even see her. He was driving a big, huge work van when he hit her. He didn’t even see that he hit her, he just heard it. And he said he looked in his rearview mirror and see her laying in the middle of the road and he turned around and went to her.”

Carmella died from her injuries at Kenmore Mercy Hospital.

She leaves behind her mother, Joleen, and her father Michael, along with her siblings — 10-year-old Joella, 5-year-old Theresa, and 2-year-old Michael.

Carmella’s mother is also currently seven months pregnant.

“I told her, always make sure you look twice before you cross the street,” added Calato. “She said ‘Auntie I promise, I’ll always look twice.’ She was being a kid.”

When asked if any charges are expected to be filed against the driver of the van, police told us it’s believed there was no foul play and it was a tragic accident.

A GoFundMe has been established to help pay for Carmella’s funeral expenses. For more information, click here.

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Patrick Ryan is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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