NEW BRITAIN - Giovanni Melendez liked to help people, even those he didnâ€™t know, said family and friends gathered outside his Connerton Street home Thursday morning.
â€śHe always wanted to help other people, Everyone who knew him knew that was the kind of person he was,â€ť his sister-in-law, Nicole Lapuerta, said.
Late Wednesday night, he paid with his life for his last act of kindness as he tried to help a motorist hurt in a crash on Interstate 91 in Hartford, state police reports indicate.
The 24-year-old Melendez, a father of three daughters, was driving back from a Fourth of July trip to Six Flags New England in Agawam, Mass., when he saw a 1995 Honda Accord traveling south on I-91 near Exit 27 hit a guardrail on the left side of the highway.
â€śThe driver behind the wheel was unconscious,â€ť Lapuerta said. â€śHe (Melendez) decided to get out of the car and help.â€ť
Melendez parked on the right shoulder at about 10:30 p.m. and tried to run across the travel lanes to get to the injured driver, state police said.
The 24-year-old, who had just moved to New Britain two or three months ago from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, was struck by a car traveling in the left lane.
The car, driven by Brandon Knoll, 25, of Springfield, Mass., also struck the Honda, state police said.
Melendez was taken to Hartford Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11:07 p.m.
The driver of the Honda was pronounced dead at the scene around the same time. State police are withholding that driverâ€™s identity until next of kin have been notified.
Knoll was not injured.
State police are continuing to investigate the crash.
Melendez had told family members just a few weeks ago that he wanted to be buried in a shirt bearing a photo of his three daughters, ages 1, 2 and 5, Lapuerta said.
â€śIt was like he knew he was going to die,â€ť Lapuerta said.
State police are warning drivers to be careful and call for help if a fellow motorist is involved in a crash or appears injured on a highway.
â€śAs troopers continue to investigate this crash, they are taking this tragic incident to remind everyone that the highway is an extremely dangerous place, and it is not the place to stand outside your vehicle, cross the highway on foot or be a pedestrian,â€ť said a press release issued by state police Thursday morning.
Melendez had been joking with everyone Wednesday before he went to the amusement park, his friend Jimmy Narvaez said. â€śHe was always smiling,â€ť Narvaez said.
Anyone who may have seen the accident is asked to call Trooper Anthony Fasulo at 860-534-1000, ext. 6060.