Woman severely injured by hit-and-run driver in Gloucester City

Angela Gattuso is an aspiring artist who lives in Clarksboro. She works two jobs, at a nursery and a restaurant.
Angela Gattuso is an aspiring artist who lives in Clarksboro. She works two jobs, at a nursery and a restaurant.
Posted: March 12, 2011

Someone plowed into Angela Gattuso as she stood near her disabled car, halfway onto her father's tow truck, giving a woman directions at the side of the road.

The driver who hit her took off, and so did the lost woman who witnessed the hit-and-run.

Gattuso's father, Louis, who controlled the tow truck from a squatting position, saw the Chevrolet's headlights approaching on South Broadway in Gloucester City. The vehicle drifted in their direction. Louis Gattuso saw a blurred image. Something flew past him.

"It must have been my daughter flying past me," Louis Gattuso said. "I just know I heard the grill hit the ground. I grabbed it and actually had it in my hand when I ran to my daughter."

Hours later, the aspiring 20-year-old artist lay in Cooper University Hospital, fighting for her life. She had severe head trauma and multiple fractures - to her nose, temple, neck, skull, jaw, and femur - after the Chevrolet hit her around 1 a.m. Friday.

On Friday, authorities had not found the driver of the Chevrolet Uplander, probably manufactured between 2005 and 2009. Police said they did not know the color of the minivan. It should be missing a grill, though. Louis Gattuso pleaded for the driver to come forward - and the witness who had asked for directions, too.

"If anybody knows anything . . . even that person who asked for directions," he said Friday in an interview from Cooper.

His daughter, he said, "always managed to see the good in everybody."

"Hopefully, who did this to her maybe has some type of compassion," he said.

Angela Gattuso, of Clarksboro, graduated from Gloucester Catholic High School in 2009. She has two jobs, at a nursery and a restaurant, and attends Gloucester County College, said her best friend, Gabrielle DiGiacomo, 20, of Brooklawn.

Gattuso, DiGiacomo, and two others were close to DiGiacomo's home in Brooklawn when Gattuso's red Honda SUV hit railroad tracks early Friday. Something was grinding under her car.

At 12:13 a.m., she called her father, who runs Gattuso's Auto Service, a family business in Clarksboro.

DiGiacomo walked to her own home nearby, got her car, and pulled behind Gattuso, and they waited with the hazard lights of both cars on.

Louis Gattuso got there at 12:40. DiGiacomo and two friends who were waiting left when he arrived.

He started to load her SUV on the tow truck. A car drove past the two of them and pulled in front at the roadside. A short, thin woman with cropped hair got out. She walked back to Gattuso's disabled car.

Gattuso had gotten into her car to put it in neutral, but she got out to give the woman directions to Collingswood.

Then, the minivan hit Gattuso.

Louis Gattuso didn't see the license plates.

"They swerved and hit her and threw her 100 feet," said Gattuso's grandmother, Rosalie. "The worst you can do is hit somebody and take off. He had to know he hit her."

Her granddaughter is the second of Louis and Debi Gattuso's five children. She loves the Beatles, particularly John Lennon. She taught herself how to play the guitar. She can paint, draw, do portraits and landscapes. She wants to be an art teacher.

At Cooper, she was breathing with a ventilator. But she showed signs of improvement.

"Her sister said 'Angela, if you can hear me, move your fingers,' and Angela pulled her arm up toward her chest," said DiGiacomo, who had been at the hospital since 2 a.m.

But even if she survives, her father said, "she is not going to be same person."

"Do the right thing," he said, speaking to the driver. "Come forward so we can have closure."

Anyone with information is asked to call Investigator Jeff Dunlap of the Prosecutor's Office at 856-225-8400 or Detective Mike Barney at 856-456-7797 or 856-456-0900.

The Citizens' Crime Commission is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the hit-and-run driver. Call 215-546-TIPS.


Contact staff writer Darran Simon at 856-779-3829 or dsimon@phillynews.com.

 

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