A hit and run driver accused of striking and killing an 81-year-old woman with his van in National City pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday.
On Saturday at around 6:30 p.m., 81-year-old pedestrian Elana Huerta was fatally injured in a hit and run collision in the 1900 block of Highland Avenue.
According to police, Huerta was walking near her church in National City when an unknown van traveling northbound struck her.
The driver – later arrested and identified as City Heights resident Alejandro Lomas Hernandez, 44, – then sped off, leaving Huerta behind in critical condition.
Officers said Huerta was crossing a portion of the street with no crosswalk with a small aluminum cart when she was hit. The impact was so hard, one of the wheels from her cart landed more than 25 feet down the road.
“She had an aluminum cart that we believe she was pushing across the street when she was struck. We located a wheel about 25 to 30 feet on the opposite side of traffic,” said National City Police Department Sgt. Alex Hernandez.
When police arrived, they found Huerta injured in the street, suffering from a broken pelvis and internal injuries. She was conscious but bleeding from the head.
"She was close to the middle of [the] block, so we're not sure where she crossed, but that was where she was found,” added Sgt. Hernandez.
Two witnesses called 911 to report the accident. The victim was taken to UCSD Medical Center in critical condition and was rushed into surgery, authorities said.
Huerta died from her injuries a short time later.
Her family told police she may have been coming from church when she was hit.
Witnesses told police that the van involved in the hit and run was an older model, full-sized van in a brown or burgundy color. It was driven by a man in his 40s. Police had also said there might be some damage to the front of the van.
Authorities later confirmed the suspect involved in this fatal hit and run crash, Alejandro Lomas Hernandez, turned himself into police Sunday afternoon -- some 18 hours after the hit and run.
The van he was driving during the crash sustained several dents and a broken windshield, police said.
Hernandez was booked into county jail on a felony hit and run charge and gross vehicular manslaughter.
He made his first appearance in court Wednesday, entering a not guilty plea. He’s currently being held in jail on $100,000 bail.
He's also accused of driving on a suspended license the night he allegedly fatally injured Huerta.
Hernandez is scheduled to appear in court for a readiness hearing on Jan. 17 and then again for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 23.