NAGS HEAD, N.C. (WAVY) — A 15-year-old girl who had recently moved to the Outer Banks from Albania died after she was struck by a vehicle while attempting to run across the highway in Nags Head on Saturday evening.
According to Nags Head officials, the crash occurred around 7:40 p.m. Saturday in the 2400 block of South Croatan Highway, near the Christmas Mouse.
A preliminary investigation of the crash revealed that the girl attempted to run from the west side of South Croatan Highway to the east side of the road at the time of the crash.
When she got to the inside northbound lane, she was struck by a 2018 Chevy Colorado driven by a 65-year-old Nags Head resident.
Three off-duty EMS employees who were nearby started CPR and were able to restore a pulse, however, the teen later died of her injuries at the Outer Banks Hospital.
She was identified on Monday as Ersi Shabanaj. We spoke with her family in Nags Head.
“She had such great energy,” said her younger cousin Keti. “She would make everyone feel welcome. She gave out these long hugs to anyone, anyone she ever met.”
Ersi’s parents made the decision to bring their child to America for the same reason many immigrants do, to give their child the opportunity for a better life.
Keti says her cousin was settling into life in the Outer Banks.
“When you compare Albania to OBX it was like a whole completely different life,” explained Keti who came to America from Albania when she was 8. “People loved her. I mean we were all so excited to finally have her here. All of our cousins, we feel like we’re siblings and she was finally a part of that.”
Ersi was finishing up her freshman year at First Flight High School.
“Please keep Ersi and the Shabanaj family in your thoughts and prayers,” Dare County Schools Superintendent John Farrelly said in a statement.
“We have sent additional counselors and social workers to support the FFHS student body and staff today and as needed during the upcoming week,” Farrelly said. “Students are encouraged to reach out to administrators, counselors, and staff as needed as we mourn the loss of Ersi and try to begin the healing process.”
Officials say neither speed nor alcohol are believed to be factors in the crash. Charges are not expected to be brought against the driver.
The crash is still under investigation.
The Shabanaj family is starting the process to lay Ersi to rest back home in Albania. A GoFundMe has been set up to help with the costs.
“We are trying to raise money because it is expensive and we need all the help we can get,” explained Keti. “Even if you donate 10 bucks, 20 bucks, that’s something.”
The GoFundMe will also help pay for Ersi’s older brother in Albania to fly to the Outer Banks to be with his family.
“It still feels like a dream,” said Keti. “I don’t think any of us have accepted yet that she’s fully gone. We all feel like she’s going to call us tomorrow morning be her joyful self always in a good mood laughing.”
A public vigil was held for Ersi at the Woodmere Beach Access with a ballon release in memory of a life ended too soon.
Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.