TAMPA, Fla. - The tears flowing down Ana Hernandez Diaz's face are evidence of her overwhelming grief over losing her 14-year-old daughter.
It’s been two weeks since Azucena “Suci” Gomez-Hernandez was hit while walking home along 15th Street in Tampa. The driver, an employee of the Department of Children and Families, got out of her SUV to survey the damage and then got back in and drove off.
An Eye on Crime camera mounted on a light pole near where it happened recorded it all.
Suci remained in critical condition for days. Doctors at Tampa General Hospital tried to save her.
“They had to remove almost all of her skull because of the [brain] swelling that was taking place on the impact she had,” said Gil Sanchez, the family’s attorney.
Azucena “Suci” Gomez-Hernandez at Tampa General Hospital. (Family provided)
But Suci wasn't going to recover. Ana made the decision to take her off life support Feb. 4.
Speaking in her native dialect of Tzotzil, Ana put her agony into words.
“I can’t explain the pain I feel for Susie,” Ana said. “No parent should have to go through this.”
After Suci’s death, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office upgraded charges against the driver, 24-year-old Nakeeba Ryan, to a first-degree felony - leaving the scene of a crash involving death. If convicted, she could face up to 30 years in prison.
Ryan was fired by the Department of Children and Families immediately following her arrest.
“We all know that she got out of her car, saw Suci and made the decision to leave the scene,” Sanchez said, adding the family plans to file a civil suit against Ryan, who had no bodily injury insurance coverage.
“No measure of money could ever make up for the loss of Suci, but it’s unfair for victims to have to have insult to injury,” Sanchez said. “Ryan didn’t have the coverage and the law doesn’t require for that. Ana believes that should change.”
The family also plans to sue the county for failing to keep pedestrians safe at the intersection, near East 122nd Avenue.
“If the county, public works specifically, would have done their job the right way, which is to have the white zebra lines for pedestrians to cross, then Suci and everyone else who walks there can see where they’re supposed to be walking. That doesn’t exist there,” Sanchez pointed out.
In the days following Suci’s death, Sanchez says her organs were donated, saving the lives of four others.
Azucena “Suci” Gomez-Hernandez, (center-right), with her mother and sisters. (Family provided)
Beyond that, Ana hopes at least one positive change can come from her daughter’s death.
“Susie was so kind, soft-spoken, and organized. She was loved by all her family and friends,” she said through tears. "She leaves a big void in our lives.”
If you’re interested in helping the family of “Suci” Gomez-Hernandez, you can find more information at https://www.gofundme.com/f/14-yo-quotsusiequot-gomez-brain-dead-family-in-need.