02/01/2017 10:02 GMT | Updated 02/01/2017 15:51 GMT

Five Arrested After New Year's Eve Hit And Run Kills Cousins Helena Kotlarova And Zaneta Krokova

'This is a heart-breaking incident which has now taken the lives of two young girls'.

Police are questioning five men after two girls were killed in a hit-and-run incident. 

Cousins Helena Kotlarova, 12, and Zaneta Krokova, 11, were holding hands and crossing the road when they were hit by a blue Peugeot 807 in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

The girls had just come out of a shop near their homes when they were struck in Ashton Road at around 7.15pm on New Year’s Eve, The Press Association reports.

Helena was pronounced dead at the scene. Zaneta died in hospital on Monday.

Press Association
Helena Kotlarova (left) and her cousin Zaneta Krokova (right) both died as a result of the New Year's Eve hit and run

Police said five men aged 23, 59, 48, 38 and 18 have been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and are in custody for questioning.

The 23-year-old was later “de-arrested” and is “helping police with their enquiries”. 

Officers are appealing for anyone who saw the Peugeot 807 in the area at the time and the driver of a white van to come forward.

Greater Manchester Police
The car involved in the hit and run was later found abandoned

Helena’s mother Sylva and father Robert raced to the scene but she was declared dead by medics as her distraught mother stroked her hair.

On New Year’s Day, the family of seven sisters and one brother, who came to England from the Czech Republic eight years ago, sat in tears mourning Helena.

Her father sat with his head in his hands, his wife weeping, while other red-eyed members of the family sat in silence in the kitchen of their terraced home.

Helena’s sister Sylva, 19, told how the family rushed to the scene 100 yards from their home seconds after the crash.

She said: “Her face was all bloody. She did not breathe. Mum was touching her hair.”

The driver of the car did not stop and a police hunt for him was launched.

Miss Kotlarova said the girls were with a larger group of family and friends who had already crossed the road, one of the main routes in and out of Oldham town centre, and the larger group was waiting on the opposite pavement.

The two cousins then started to cross the road outside the shop.

Miss Kotlarova said: “But as they came to the other side of the road the car ran them over. They were holding hands.”

Seconds later friends ran to Helena’s home to alert the family.

Peter Byrne/PA Wire
An ambulance at the scene of the hit and run in Oldham

Miss Kotlarova added: “We ran there. I went to her. Her face was all bloody. She did not breathe. Then the ambulance came.”

She said Helena attended the Collective Spirit free school in Oldham and enjoyed dancing and music and wanted to become a singer.

Sergeant Lee Westhead of Greater Manchester Police’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit said: “This is a heart-breaking incident which has now taken the lives of two young girls and all of our thoughts remain with their families, who are understandably devastated.

“We have made significant progress with our investigation since the collision happened and I would like to thank everyone who has contacted police with information so far.

“The community are clearly as committed as we are to establishing exactly what happened to Helena and Zaneta and the support they have provided has been vital to the investigation.

Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Police are appealing for witnesses

“As the investigation has progressed we have identified that the vehicle that struck the girls was a Blue Peugeot 807. We have recovered this vehicle abandoned on Honeywell Lane.

“The Peugeot is very distinctive and I am releasing pictures of the vehicle in an attempt to establish its movements on the 31 December in the hours prior to the collision.

“As you can see in the images, the vehicle is dark blue, people carrier shaped and is in poor physical condition and notably has pre-existing damage to its rear window.

“Did you see this vehicle on Saturday 31 December in the hours before or after the collision?

“Finally, I am also keen to speak to the occupants of a white Citroen Despatch van that I am also releasing an image of. This vehicle did not collide with anyone but was in the immediate vicinity of the collision and may have key information.

“Again if you saw this vehicle or have any information about its occupants or why it was in the area at the time of the collision, please contact us.”

Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 4741, quoting incident number 1691 of 31/12/16, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.