‘I didn’t want her to be alone’: Former Newburyport mayor tends to reverend fatally hit by truck

NEWBURYPORT, Mass — A former Newburyport mayor is reliving the graphic moments after a pickup truck hit an 81-year-old woman near the State of the City address at City Hall.

Donna Holaday, who served as Newburyport’s mayor for 12 years, was headed to Wednesday night’s event when she saw the impact.

She told Boston 25 News that she rushed toward the pickup truck and saw a woman underneath it.

Holaday said her first instinct was to comfort the victim at the traumatic scene.

“I got down on my knees, looked under the vehicle and that’s when I noticed that there was a person under there,” recalled Holaday. “So I got down and reached out and held her hand and kept talking to her until the EMTs arrived.”

Holaday said there was nothing she could do but try to comfort the victim of the horrific auto-pedestrian accident.

She describes another witness doing the same alongside her.

“I didn’t want her to be alone,” she said. “You just move when something happens and someone needs help.”

Shortly thereafter, Holaday found out that the woman did not survive and also learned who she was.

The victim, who was pronounced dead at the hospital, has been identified as beloved Reverend Helen Murgida.

Murgida was a community service minister with the First Religious Society’s Unitarian Universalist Church.

She was also on her way to attend the Newburyport Mayor’s State of the City address to give the invocation.

She had agreed to fill in for another religious leader who came down with an illness just hours earlier.

“I’ve learned a lot about this amazing woman. The work she’s done in education, the work she’s done in mental health,” said Holaday.

Holaday attended an emotional vigil honoring Murgida 24 hours after the fatal impact.

It was held at the First Religious Society Church, just about a block from where the accident happened.

“She was generous. She was kind. She was strong. She was sweet but like fierce,” said Rev. Rebecca M. Bryan. “She was deeply committed to supporting people who had in any way been marginalized because of their needs or differences.”

Holaday said she was touched to learn more about the remarkable woman she met in her final moments of life.

She said she also can’t help but think about the driver who was behind the wheel of the Ford F-150 pickup truck.

“He couldn’t move [or] talk. He was just an absolute mess. I’m sure as any of us would be if something like that happened,” she added.

The driver of the pickup truck remained at the scene.

No charges or citations have been issued in connection with the deadly accident.

Newburyport’s current Mayor Sean Reardon, who was visibly shaken at the State of the City event, attended Thursday night’s vigil.

“This is a tragic day for the Newburyport community. Our hearts are prayers are with her family, friends, and the First Religious Society,” said Reardon. “As an Interfaith Chaplain, Rev. Helen touched many lives within her congregation and throughout Newburyport. She had spent a long and rewarding career in special education, and she carried her passion to support those facing challenges through her faith. She advocated tirelessly for the inclusion of people with disabilities, delivering sermons and organizing community programming to raise awareness.”

Counseling services will be made available to City Hall staff.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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