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A mother's plea to hit-and-run drivers

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The heartbroken parents of a girl who died at the roadside after a hit-and-run last July pleaded yesterday for witnesses to break their silence.

Jen-Naya Simmons, 19, suffered fatal injuries after a small silver-grey Suzuki passenger van hit her bike in the early hours of July 15 on North Shore Road, Hamilton Parish, near the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo and continued drove on.

Her grieving mother, Kimberlee Mack, said: “It's the severity and the coldness — how could you leave somebody like that?”

She added that her “brilliant” daughter, a graduate of CedarBridge Academy, had looked forward to studying to become a nurse.

Ms Mack, who lives in the United States, said her daughter had “just got a job and was on her way to New York”.

She was speaking as police renewed an appeal at the scene of the crash for passengers in the Suzuki, which is understood to have been carrying several people, to come forward.

Ms Mack said: “Jen-Naya was brilliant, an honour roll student from birth. She could ace any task.

“She was headstrong, fearless and really funny, always making us laugh.”

She asked witnesses who had not contacted police: “Do you have a heart?”

Ms Mack said: “Just think if it was your child, cousin or mother. How could you go over a human being and try to cover it up? Eight months later and still you have not come forward?”

She added: “This case is unprecedented. People are watching.”

Ms Mack also dismissed the idea that talking to police was “snitching”.

She said: “People are losing their lives. There are multiple families that don't have closure. Are we to blame as Bermudians for that? What is it that makes us think that's acceptable?”

Ms Mack said Jen-Naya, her younger sister and her best friend had shared a takeout meal near the aquarium before they left for their grandmother's house in Crawl.

Her friend and sister, on one bike, pulled away first.

Ms Mack said the Suzuki was “travelling so fast it almost hit them”.

She added: “They looked back for Jen-Naya and didn't see her bike.”

Ms Mack said her younger sister, who was “extremely close” to Jen-Naya, discovered her lying by the side of the road.

She added the younger sister, who was 15 at the time, was left “traumatised” and Jen-Naya's older brother was “torn up”.

She added: “We're not the type of Bermudians who listen to hearsay and gossip. We believe in living our lives and being the best people who we can be.”

Ms Mack said Jen-Naya's little sister has “lost part of herself”.

Ms Mack declined to name the other children because they had endured harassment on social media.

She said she had last seen Jen-Naya waving as she boarded a plane back to Bermuda.

Ms Mack added: “We're a very close knit family. Something like this is unimaginable.”

Kingsley Burchall, Jen-Naya's father, who held a picture of his daughter as he talked at the scene of the crash, said: “If anyone knows anything, can they please come forward? This has ruined my whole family's life.”

Police urged passengers from the Suzuki to “do the honourable thing” and help the investigation.

Sergeant Dorian Astwood said police at first thought the crash was a single vehicle accident, but later said that a silver-grey Suzuki APV minivan had hit Jen-Naya.

Police announced that a 38-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the incident last September.

Mr Astwood said the man had been released on police bail, but added that information suggested “other occupants in the vehicle at the time of this collision”. He declined to reveal how many.

He added: “Let me be abundantly clear: this investigation is not finished.”

Mr Astwood said the others “for whatever reason, have not done the honourable thing and come forward”.

“There are many people walking around with guilty consciences and heavy loads on their hearts.”

Mr Astwood added that “the manner in which Jen-Naya's life was taken from her was callous”.

He said he could not imagine “how one could sleep at night”.

Mr Astwood added: “It is now time for members of this community who know who they are to speak up.

“Your silence is very disrespectful to the memory of the deceased.”

He said: “Please be reminded that this is a crime punishable under the law. This is a very serious matter.

“The life of a young lady with a vibrant, bright future was tragically taken from her family and friends.”

Anyone with information about the crash should contact Pc Walter Jackson on 295-0011, or Mr Astwood on 247-1009. Witnesses can also contact the anonymous and confidential Crime Stoppers hotline on 800-8477

A family's grief: Jen-Naya Simmons's aunt, Anika Smith, grandmother Jennifer Burch and her father, Kingsley Burchall were joined by other family members at the scene of a road collision on North Shore Road, Hamilton Parish, just west of the Aquarium, where the 19-year-old was killed on July 15, 2018. The recent CedarBridge Academy graduate was struck in the early hours that morning by a silver-grey Suzuki APV van. One man was arrested and later released (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Kingsley Burchall holds a photograph of his daughter Jen-Naya Simmons at a press conference today (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Jen-Naya Simmons (Photograph supplied)
Jen-Naya Simmons Press Conference (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Jen-Naya Simmons Press Conference (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Jen-Naya Simmons Press Conference (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 08, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated March 08, 2019 at 8:31 am)

A mother's plea to hit-and-run drivers

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