Arrest in deadly hit-and-run of 13-year-old girl with Down syndrome

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Michael Elardo pleaded guilty to running down a 13-year-old girl with Down syndrome June 15, 2014, then leaving her mortally wounded in the road in Levittown, Long Island. (Photo: Nassau County Police Department)

LEVITTOWN, Long Island (PIX11) – A driver turned himself in to police after allegedly striking a 13-year-old girl with Down syndrome then leaving her mortally wounded in a Long Island road.

Michael Elardo, 48, of Syosset, was arrested Monday and charged with leaving the scene of an incident, the Nassau County Police Department said early Tuesday.

Elardo is accused of hitting the teenage pedestrian with his blue minivan shortly after midnight Sunday near Hempstead Turnpike and Gardiners Avenue in Levittown, police said.

He allegedly struck Brianna Soplin, of Levittown, then kept driving as the young girl suffered in the street. She was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead nearly five hours later.

Soplin, who has been diagnosed with Down syndrome, had apparently snuck out of her home to visit her grandfather for Father’s Day.

Elardo is scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment Tuesday.

brianna soplin levittown long island hit and run

Brianna Soplin was killed June 15, 2014, when the driver of a blue minivan struck her along Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown, Long Island, then kept driving. (Photo: Family)

The Father’s Day tragedy highlighted ongoing concerns surrounding pedestrian safety along the six-lane Hempstead Turnpike.

In recent years, the New York State Department of Transportation has added crosswalks and countdown clocks to help facilitate safe passage over the turnpike, but residents and experts say more needs to be done.

“The road is designed to facilitate speed,” said Ryan Lynch, associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit with the goal of reducing car dependency.