CHARLESE BURROWS and her family were out enjoying an unseasonably warm breeze in North Philadelphia just before dusk Tuesday when tragedy thundered up in the form of an enraged woman in a tan car.
Steaming and screaming, Wykia Townsend was fury incarnate, allegedly there to confront her romantic rival in a love triangle, investigators said.
Before Burrows, her mother, Donna, and several children frolicking in the late-day sunshine on Germantown Avenue near Somerset Street, could react, Townsend stomped on the gas pedal. Her Nissan Maxima roared onto the sidewalk and into the family, hurling bodies into the air.
When the engine quieted, Burrows, 33, her mother, Donna, 47, and her 5-year-old niece lay broken and bleeding near the battered car. Townsend and her passenger - whom police haven't charged - had vanished, after they ditched the car in an adjacent trash-strewn lot and ran off.
Burrows remained in critical condition at Temple University Hospital yesterday with severe head and body injuries, police said. Her mother was in stable condition at Temple with a broken leg.
Donna Burrows' 5-year-old granddaughter suffered a broken pelvis and leg and remained in stable condition at Temple Children's Hospital yesterday.
The girl's 24-year-old mother, who also was at the scene, was uninjured.
It's unclear which woman was Townsend's intended target.
Police caught up with Townsend at 12th Street and Glenwood Avenue shortly after the 7:35 p.m. incident.
Townsend, 22, of Bancroft Street near Clearfield, in North Philadelphia, was charged with aggravated assault and related charges.
At the scene yesterday, a pulverized chain-link fence, mangled car bumper, black flip-flops encircled with crime-scene chalk and white sneakers spattered with dried blood were chilling leftovers of the previous night's carnage.
No one answered the door at Donna Burrows' home next door to where the tragedy unfolded.
But James Moore, a passer-by who said Charlese Burrows is his cousin, said she had recently married. He declined further comment.
Few people live on the hardscrabble block, where businesses - some boarded-up and others open but well-worn - outnumber residences.
But those who sauntered by the scene yesterday marveled at the rage that drove a person to mow down three people including a child.
"That little girl ain't got nothing to do with it - that's messed up," said neighbor Maria, who declined to give her last name.
Tammy Hairston, a social worker who stopped by to check on a client, agreed:
"Because she wanted to avenge whatever she was feeling, now a child's life is on the line. "It's like nobody cares about the kids," she said.
"I grew up in the Badlands, with all the shooting and gang-warring. I always thought it would get better, but instead it's gotten worse.
"I have a 1-year-old niece [who lives in Frankford] and I am petrified for her to be outside."