Father dies saving son in hit-and-run on Roosevelt Blvd.

Roderick Williams is charged in accident.
Roderick Williams is charged in accident.
Posted: September 01, 2012

When a man five months removed from a DUI conviction came driving down Roosevelt Boulevard on Wednesday night, allegedly drunk behind the wheel again, Michael Romano's son was directly in his path. Romano made a split-second decision to save his son's life - and gave up his own.

The car, driven by Roderick Williams, 22, of the 3000 block of North 23d Street, struck Romano as he pushed his 5-year-old son out of harm's way in a southbound lane near Loney Street.

Paramedics pronounced Romano, 43, dead at the scene of the crash, which happened shortly before 11 p.m.

Romano's son was transported to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children with his mother, who was nearby but did not witness the incident, said Sgt. Lawrence Ritchie of the Accident Investigation Division. The boy was treated for minor cuts and bruises.

Williams pleaded guilty in March to a DUI incident from Sept. 11. Police said Williams was drunk and continued driving after striking Romano.

An off-duty officer, who happened to be driving behind Williams, witnessed the accident and pulled Williams over a few blocks later.

Williams has been charged with vehicular homicide while driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license, Ritchie said, along with such related charges as leaving the scene of an accident.

A woman on the 3000 block of North 23d Street, who identified herself as Williams' grandmother, said Williams was a "pretty good boy." Williams uses her address for mail, she said, because he has moved several times in the last few years. His mother lives nearby, but Williams' grandmother said she did not know where he lived.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation removed five mid-block crosswalks, including one near Loney, as part of a safety-improvement project on the Boulevard. The next step in the $2.87 million project is the activation next week of new traffic signals at five intersections, PennDot spokesman Eugene J. Blaum said.

The Boulevard is known for its dangers. Mayor Nutter once called it "one of the most hazardous roads in America."

Wednesday's accident was the second this week. An unidentified man was struck near Hartel Avenue early Sunday and pronounced dead at the scene. That hit-and-run driver has not been found.

In the 10-year period from 2002 to 2011, 100 people died in more than 5,000 crashes on the Boulevard, according to PennDot data. In the most recent five years, from 2007 to 2011, 54 people died, including 17 pedestrians in 134 pedestrian accidents.

Contact Jonathan Lai at 215-854-5151 or jlai@philly.com, or follow on Twitter @elaijuh.

Inquirer staff writers Joseph A. Gambardello and Dylan Purcell contributed to this article.

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