Soldier From Monroe County Dies in Texas Hit and Run Crash
A mother seeking answers in the hit-and-run death of her son has found support from a woman who didn't know Sgt. Derek Roy Pagan until it was too late.
Pagan, 29, died early Sunday morning in Austin, Texas, struck while walking in the southbound lane of Highway 183, according to the Austin Police Department. He had served with the Fort Hood-based 589th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, since 2013, according to a Tuesday news release from the base announcing his death.
What began as a nightmare for Pagan's mother, Linda, soon also became a mystery.
"We want to find who did this to my son," she said Tuesday in a phone interview. "My daughter and I cannot rest until someone gives themselves up and says they did it. And I know deep down inside, there's a chance we may never know, but if there's anything we can do to fight together, to find out ... as his mother, I want justice."
She found an ally in her quest in Veronica Carmona, who reached the scene in Austin shortly after the incident that claimed Sgt. Pagan's life. Carmona and her boyfriend, Joe Salazar, were driving in the highway's northbound lane, returning from a wedding, when they noticed a man on the other side of the road, trying to waive down traffic.
Unsure what was going on, they turned around to find the man had been attempting to divert cars from Pagan's lifeless frame.
"I blocked the body with my car so that no one else could hit him," Carmona said. "We gave the directions to the 911 dispatch. We waited there until help arrived."
When it did, Carmona and Salazar left. But their role in the case wasn't over.
"We wanted to pay respects to the family," Carmona said. "We at least wanted a name."
She wrote a Facebook post about the incident. A friend of the Pagan family stumbled on the message and connected her with Pagan's mother in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania, who called Carmona "her angel" and said they talked for hours.
Following that conversation, Carmona and her sister created Justice for Derek, a Facebook page filled with photos of Pagan and with nearly 670 likes as of Tuesday evening. The goal, Linda Pagan said, is to spread word about the case as far as possible, hoping that someone will step forward with information.
Investigators told KXAN-TV that Pagan may have been hit by more than one car. It was the 30th fatal traffic incident in Austin this year, the APD said in its release. Last year, Austin averaged more than 800 hit-and-run accidents of all types every month, KXAN reported, ranging from fatalities to minor collisions — all being tracked by a four-person department.
"The cop said to me, 'We're hoping maybe somebody will feel guilty,' " Linda Pagan said. " 'We're hoping maybe somebody will tell somebody else, and they'll feel guilty ... maybe a body shop might call us. ...' "
Sgt. Pagan enlisted in 2011 and earned the Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal and Air Assault Badge among other decorations, according to the Fort Hood release.
Anyone with information regarding the case can contact the APD Vehicular Homicide Unit Detectives at 512-0974-8164.