Elsman family friend talks about Times Square tragedy


PORTAGE, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A family friend who spoke to Tom Elsman shortly after the tragic accident in Times Square is talking about the tragedy.

Newschannel 3's Lourin Sprenger talked a man who has known the Elsman family for more than 12 years and considers them family.

Dereck McConaha was one of just three people that spoke with Tom Elsman after the heartbreaking news from Times Square.

McConaha, family friend, said, “I can't imagine the mom, because she had ahold of her hand.”

McConaha said his heart broke last night when he talked to Elsman.

He said, “I am trying to be there from him now.”

A man he considers a brother.

McConaha said, “He was way too calm, that's what went through my head. Is how calm he was because he was still in shock?”

Elsman told McConaha he was on his way to New York after his oldest daughter, 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman, was killed, his youngest daughter, Ava Elsman, critically injured, and his wife in the hospital.

McConaha said, “He's numb, he wants blood. I don’t think he realizes what has actually happened yet.”

Growing up around the girls, McConaha said they are different as night and day. He got to know Alyssa while working with Tom.

“She's funny, she's outgoing, she's very calm and collected, she's got just a freeness about her that you want in your child.”

While Ava is the free spirit of the family.

“Laughs, she a little spunky one, she's his ‘go-getter’ as he says.”

The middle child, Carter, was invited on the trip.

“He told his dad that he had a bad feeling about going and he didn't want to go this time.”

Tom, now in New York, devastated at the tragic end to what was supposed to be a fun girls trip in the city.

“I have no words; I have no real emotion that can cover how he could possibly be feeling that's his baby that's his first born.”

McConaha has planned a vigil at the amphitheater in Paw Paw at 9 p.m. on Friday.

He said the community needs to come together and lean on one another and celebrate this family.

He's asking anyone to bring candles, photos, and paper lanterns.