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Posts from the "NYPD Crash Investigations" Category

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NYPD Still Doesn’t Investigate All Fatal Traffic Crashes

In 2013, Ray Kelly made the only significant traffic safety policy change in his exceptionally long tenure as police commissioner. Kelly promised to increase the staffing of NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad — where, at the time, only 19 detectives were assigned to investigate crashes in a city with about 300 traffic deaths and 3,000 serious injuries every year. To ensure that more crashes received serious attention from NYPD, Kelly also said the department would retire a rule that limited CIS investigations to cases in which the victim was deemed “likely to die.”

One year into Vision Zero, NYPD is still letting some fatal collisions slip through the cracks of its crash investigation protocol. Photo: Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

Under the old rule, NYPD not only failed to investigate the vast majority of crashes resulting in serious injury, it also failed to investigate many fatal crashes. With police officers making spur-of-the-moment medical assessments about whether victims would die, the results were predictably inconsistent. In some cases, like the crashes that claimed the lives of Stefanos Tsigrimanis and Clara Heyworth, NYPD failed to promptly investigate because the victims were not initially deemed likely to die. Critical evidence could not be properly collected.

The new resources and the new rule were supposed to prevent fatal crashes from slipping through the cracks. Kelly issued a memo establishing a new standard, stating that officers would ”respond when there has been a critical injury or when a Police Department duty captain believes the extent of injuries and/or unique circumstances of a collision warrant such action.”

But even after Kelly set the new rule in place, even in the purported Vision Zero era under Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor de Blasio, NYPD still doesn’t promptly investigate all fatal crashes.

WNYC’s Kate Hinds and Kat Aaron report that NYPD doesn’t announce about a quarter of traffic deaths — those missing fatalities end up in spreadsheet compilations but not in the press alerts the department sends out in the immediate aftermath of a fatal crash. One of the victims overlooked by NYPD’s public announcements was Douglas Matrullo, who was struck by a hit-and-run driver about three months ago and died at Bellevue eight hours after the collision. Hinds and Aaron report:

A spokesperson said that’s because the officers who responded to Matrullo’s crash didn’t think his injuries were serious enough to warrant calling in the Collision Investigation Squad, the specially-trained unit that gathers evidence at crash scenes.

A crash victim died and NYPD never investigated — this is exactly the scenario that retiring the “likely to die” rule was supposed to prevent.

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Does Cy Vance Use His Surveillance Camera Bank to Fight Traffic Violence?

In New York City, if you hit someone with a motor vehicle and keep driving, odds are you will get away with it. NYPD made arrests in just 25 percent of fatal hit-and-run crashes in 2012, according to Transportation Alternatives. And in many cases where the driver is eventually identified, a simple “I didn’t see her” is all it takes to satisfy prosecutors and police.

A hit-and-run truck driver nearly killed Wendy Ruther and her 3-year-old son Justin. Is Cy Vance putting his lauded video surveillance system to work on the case? Photo via DNAinfo

A hit-and-run truck driver nearly killed Wendy Ruther and her 3-year-old son Justin. Is Cy Vance putting his lauded video surveillance system to work on the case? Photo via DNAinfo

On December 1, a truck driver hit Wendy Ruther and nearly ran over her young son, Justin, as the pair walked to Justin’s preschool. The two were in a crosswalk at W. 65th Street and Broadway, DNAinfo reported, when the driver made a right turn, hit them both, and continued south on Broadway. CBS reports that NYPD has yet to make an arrest, and Wendy Ruther remains hospitalized with serious injuries.

“She recalls feeling the three wheels of the truck going over her,” said the woman’s husband, Aldo Lombardi.

The hit-and-run accident, steps away from Lincoln Center, a week ago Monday nearly killed her.

“She still cannot believe she is alive,” Aldo Lombardi said.

Wendy Lombardi has a crushed leg, a fractured pelvis, and a deep gash near her eye. The injuries came as she managed to save the life of her 3-year-old son Justin.

“He recalls being hit by a big wheel,” Aldo Lombardi said. “Wendy managed to push him off of danger.”

CBS says Aldo Lombardi ”was told that the Lincoln Center security cameras at the scene were pointing the wrong way,” and “no one got a close look” at the driver. “I would ask him to come forward,” Lombardi said. “I would like him not to be on the streets.”

It seems that in Manhattan, at least, NYPD and vehicular crimes prosecutors have a powerful tool to help catch hit-and-run drivers, and collect evidence for other traffic crash cases. The recent New York Times profile of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance described a web of video surveillance cameras spanning the borough, with access at investigators’ fingertips.

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Teen Driver Kills Senior on Street With No Sidewalks, NYPD Blames Victim

Ignascio Andal, whose path is indicated in white, was killed by a driver on a street with no sidewalks in Jamaica Estates. NYPD said "no criminality is suspected." Motorists have killed at least three pedestrians this year in the 107th Precinct. Image: Google Maps

Ignascio Andal, whose path is indicated in white, was killed by a driver on a street with no sidewalks in Jamaica Estates. NYPD said “no criminality is suspected.” Motorists have killed at least three pedestrians this year in the 107th Precinct. Image: Google Maps

A teenage driver ran over a senior on a street with no sidewalks Sunday, and NYPD cast blame on the victim. The crash occurred in a police precinct where motorists have killed at least three pedestrians in 2014.

At around 3 p.m. yesterday, 84-year-old Ignascio Andal was walking westbound on Wicklow Place when a 17-year-old driver in a 2013 Mazda hit him after turning right from 188th Street, according to NYPD.

The Daily News published photos, taken after dark, which indicate Andal was pushing a four-wheeled cart.

Wicklow Place is a suburban-style residential street with no sidewalks that forms a T intersection with 188th Street. NYPD had no information on who had the right of way, how fast the driver was going, or what prevented him from seeing the victim — nothing pertaining to the driver’s actions other than his direction of travel. NYPD said Andal was “in the middle of the roadway.” Andal was declared dead on arrival at New York Hospital Queens.

NYPD told Streetsblog the investigation is ongoing, but said “no criminality is suspected.” According to the Daily News, “cops say that the 17-year-old driver is not being charged with a crime.”

According to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, Andal was at least the third pedestrian killed by a driver this year in the 107th Precinct, where as of October officers had summonsed 157 drivers for failing to yield to pedestrians in 2014, and issued 523 speeding tickets. All three fatalities happened in the City Council district represented by Rory Lancman.

To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Captain Paul A. Valerga, the commanding officer of the 107th Precinct, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 107th Precinct council meetings happen at 8 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month at precinct, 71-01 Parsons Boulevard. Call 718-969-5973 for information. The 107th Precinct is also on Twitter.

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Driver Not Charged for Killing Girl, 10, and Injuring Mother in Borough Park

Workers clean the street after a motorist struck 10-year-old Blima Friedman and her mother. The Daily News reported that, according to NYPD, the victims were crossing "mid-block." Police charged the driver for taking the vehicle without permission, but did not charge him for killing Blima and injuring her mother.

Workers clean the street after a motorist struck 10-year-old Blima Friedman and her mother. The Daily News reported that, according to NYPD, the victims were crossing “midblock.” Police charged the driver for taking the vehicle without permission, but did not charge him for killing Blima and injuring her mother.

A motorist killed a 10-year-old girl and injured her pregnant mother as the pair crossed a street in Borough Park Tuesday night. Blima Friedman was at least the eighth child age 14 and under killed by a New York City driver in 2014, and the third in the last six weeks.

The crash occurred at around 8:57 p.m. The Daily News cited unnamed police sources who said Blima and her mother Sara Freeman were “crossing midblock” on 18th Avenue at 60th Street when Bilal Ghumman hit them with a Honda minivan. But a police spokesperson told Streetsblog the circumstances of the crash, including who had the right of way, remain under investigation, and photos of the scene appear to indicate the victims would have been at most a few feet outside the crosswalk.

Police said Ghumman, 22, was northbound on 18th Avenue when he made a left turn onto 60th Street and struck the victims. Ghumman was reportedly working as a valet for a nearby wedding, and NYPD said he was driving the minivan elsewhere without the owner’s consent. Ghumman had an outstanding warrant for a drug-related offense, according to NYPD and published reports, and he was arrested and charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

NYPD and Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson filed no charges against Ghumman for killing Blima Friedman and injuring her mother.

From the Daily News:

The mother, apparently pinned under the vehicle, remained conscious after the collision and screamed for her severely injured daughter as both lay on the ground, witnesses said.

“We saw the lady and her child on the ground. She was in shock,” said witness Angel Santos, 18, who was walking to a bodega when he came upon the scene. “She was still on the ground. She was screaming, ‘Oh my God, is (she) OK? Is (she) OK?’”

The frantic woman was also grasping her belly, apparently in the first throes of labor, witnesses said.

“She was holding her stomach, she looked like she was in pain,” said Jasmine Torres, 19.

Freeman, 33, was taken to Lutheran Medical Center, where she delivered her baby. Both were in stable condition as of last night, according to the Times. Blima was declared dead on arrival at Maimonides Medical Center, NYPD said.

This fatal crash occurred in the 66th Precinct, and in the City Council district represented by David Greenfield.

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NYPD Blames Teen Killed by SI Motorist Before Completing Investigation

A motorist waits to make a left turn from Hylan Boulevard onto Bayview Avenue, the same turn taken by the driver who struck and killed Jenna Daniels on Saturday afternoon. NYPD blamed Daniels for the collision. Image: Google Maps

A motorist waits to make a left turn from Hylan Boulevard onto Bayview Avenue, the same turn taken by the driver who struck and killed Jenna Daniels Saturday afternoon. NYPD blamed Daniels for the collision. Image: Google Maps

NYPD says it’s still investigating the death of a teenage jogger who was struck by a motorist on Staten Island, but that didn’t stop the department from publicizing a “preliminary” finding claiming the victim was at fault. Based on NYPD investigations into this crash and others, it’s open season on pedestrians who cross streets on a diagonal and don’t stay within the precise confines of a crosswalk.

The driver of a pickup truck hit 15-year-old Jenna Daniels as he made a left turn from Hylan Boulevard onto Bayview Avenue in Prince’s Bay at approximately 2:39 p.m. Saturday, according to the Staten Island Advance.

Police said Daniels was on Hylan, crossing Bayview from west to east, when she was hit. She suffered severe head trauma and was declared dead on arrival at Staten Island University Hospital, the Advance reported. A photo from the scene shows a black Ford F-150 with a raised chassis, oversized aftermarket wheels, a blacked-out grille and front bumper, and tinted headlights.

True to protocol, NYPD did not release the name of the 38-year-old motorist, who was not charged by police or Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan. NYPD ticketed the driver for tinted windows, the Advance said, though according to the Collision Investigation Squad report, “the windows did not contribute to the crash.”

The collision investigation squad’s report notes that his license and registration were valid, that he passed a Breathalyzer test and that he was not on his cell phone when he struck Ms. Daniels. His speed at the time of the collision was not recorded as part of the CIS report, police said.

While disclosing nothing about the driver’s speed — the single most important factor in the severity of a crash — NYPD said Daniels was jogging “outside the crosswalk … with headphones in her ears,” according to the Advance. NYPD said the motorist “had the right of way,” a claim refuted by attorney Steve Vaccaro, who said city traffic rules permit mid-block crossings on Bayview Avenue, which has several unsignalized intersections.

“On most every block in Manhattan, you have to cross at a crosswalk,” Vaccaro told the Advance. “That is not true on a block like this where there is not a traffic signal at both ends.”

Daniels appears to have been just barely outside the crosswalk when she was struck. If Daniels was jogging west to east on Hylan, as police say, she may have been headed for a desire path on the east side of Bayview (out of frame to the left in the above Google Maps image), which leads to an apartment complex and is a short diagonal from the northwest corner of the Hylan intersection. Photos published by the Advance indicate that a makeshift memorial was installed for Daniels near the spot where the desire path begins.

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Chin Joins Victims’ Families to Blast Lax Enforcement of Street Safety Law

Michael Cheung speaks about his mother, who was killed in a Canal Street crosswalk by a driver last month. No charges have been filed against the driver. Photo: Margaret Chin/Twitter

Michael Cheung speaks about his mother, 90-year-old Sau Ying Lee, who was killed in a Canal Street crosswalk by a driver last month. No charges were filed. Photo: Margaret Chin/Twitter

Drivers have killed four pedestrians in and around Chinatown since late August. Despite a new law on the books that could be applied in some of these cases, NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance have not filed charges against the drivers. Yesterday, Council Member Margaret Chin gathered with victims’ families and community board leaders to demand justice. Chin also announced legislation calling on DOT to study street safety on busy truck routes like Canal Street.

Last month, a driver killed 90-year-old Sau Ying Lee in the crosswalk on Canal Street at Elizabeth Street. No charges have been filed against the driver. “My mom had the right of the way when she was crossing the street. According to the police report, my mom needed only two more steps and she could finish crossing,” said Michael Cheung, Lee’s son. ”New York City law says, ‘Okay, the driver’s not drunk, he’s not under any drug influence. Goodbye. Go and kill another pedestrian.’ That’s the message New York City is sending to the driver.”

Chin pointed to lax enforcement of the Right of Way Law, also known as Section 19-190, which allows for criminal penalties against drivers who strike pedestrians or cyclists with the right of way. “We need to see the law being strongly enforced against drivers who hit pedestrians in the crosswalk,” Chin said. ”At the very least, they should have been held accountable under that clear and simple law.”

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan has said the department is training all officers, not just crash investigators, to enforce the Right of Way Law, but there is no word on when that process will be complete. So far, enforcement of the law has been inconsistent.

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Hit-and-Run Drivers Strike Twice at Dangerous Fourth Avenue Intersection

A driver speeding north on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope this afternoon ran a red light and struck a woman, leaving her seriously injured before speeding away from the scene. Less than six weeks ago, a hit-and-run driver — also speeding north on Fourth Avenue, also running a red — injured a cyclist at the same location before crashing his car and fleeing on foot.

Police investigate the crash scene this afternoon. Photo: @JohnJayInNYC/Twitter

Police investigate the crash scene this afternoon. Photo: @JohnJayInNYC/Twitter

The woman injured today was crossing Fourth Avenue at Union Street at 12:35 p.m. when the northbound driver ran a red light and struck her in the crosswalk. She was transported to Lutheran Hospital in serious condition. According to the Daily News, she suffers from an open skull fracture. Police have not released her identity.

Witnesses interviewed by DNAinfo said the victim, age 46, landed head first on the pavement. The witnesses, who both work as EMTs, assisted the woman before an ambulance arrived. “Her face was covered with blood,” one witness said. “She was unconscious.”

The driver, behind the wheel of a dark Hyundai Elantra, fled the scene and kept going up Fourth Avenue. Police say the car may be the same vehicle that was reported stolen in Borough Park a half-hour after the crash. DNAinfo reports that police are looking for a vehicle with the license plate GRM8448.

On September 28, a similar crash occurred at the same location. A driver going north on Fourth Avenue sped past Union Street before crashing into a parked car one block away at Degraw Street. The driver got out of the car and fled on foot. Although witnesses said the driver had injured someone at Union Street before fleeing, police said the crash involved only property damage.

Two weeks after the crash, Boerum Hill resident David Pauley, 48, contacted Streetsblog to say he was the person injured by the driver at Union Street. According to a police crash report Pauley shared with Streetsblog, the driver was traveling northbound on Fourth Avenue when he ran a red light and struck another vehicle in the intersection. The driver then struck Pauley, who was going west on Union and had just entered the intersection. Like the woman injured today, Pauley landed on his head. He credits his bike helmet, which split in half, for sparing him more serious injury.

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Senior Struck By Unlicensed Driver in UES Crosswalk Has Died

Keiko Ohnishi was hit in a crosswalk by an accused unlicensed driver. The driver was charged with unlicensed operation and failure to yield but was not charged under the city's new Right of Way Law. Image: Google Maps

Keiko Ohnishi was hit in a crosswalk by a driver who was charged with unlicensed operation and failure to yield but was not charged under the city’s new Right of Way Law. Image: Google Maps

A senior struck by an allegedly unlicensed motorist in an Upper East Side crosswalk this September has died from her injuries, according to NYPD’s monthly traffic crash report and WNYC’s Mean Streets project. Though the driver was ticketed for failure to yield, he was not charged under the new Vision Zero law that makes it a crime for motorists to harm pedestrians who have the right of way.

At around 9:47 on the morning of September 4, Kristin Rodriguez, 25, drove a minivan into 66-year-old Keiko Ohnishi as she walked with a cane across Madison Avenue at E. 98th Street, near Mount Sinai Hospital, the Daily News reported.

From the Post:

“[The van] hit her and she [flew] up and back down and he kept on going with her under him,” said Tracy Molloy, 39, who was waiting for the bus when she saw the horrific accident.

“He was trying to make the light like every New York City driver,” she said.

“He drove completely over her, over her legs. He must have felt the bump and heard people scream so he stopped,” said another witness Neud Clermont. “Blood was coming out of her ears.

“I walked over and started to pull her dress down, and the driver was panicking. He was like, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t see you!’” said Clermont.

Ohnishi was admitted to Mount Sinai in critical condition. She succumbed to her injuries, NYPD confirmed.

Rodriguez, whose van reportedly had North Carolina plates, was summonsed for failure to yield and charged with third degree aggravated unlicensed operation, according to NYPD and court records. He was not charged under city code Section 19-190, known as the Right of Way Law, which made it a misdemeanor to strike a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way. The law was adopted as part of a package of Vision Zero legislation intended to reduce traffic injuries and deaths.

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Why Is NYPD Defending Hit-and-Run Drivers to the Press?

NYPD declined to speculate on whether a driver was speeding before a fatal hit-and-run crash, yet told the press the victim was jaywalking. Image: News 12

Update: The victim in the Rockaway Parkway crash was identified as Alex Davis, according to DNAinfo. Police said he was hit by the driver of a Ford Mustang. The driver remained at large as of November 7.

Hit-and-run drivers have killed two New York City pedestrians in the past week. After each crash NYPD sources either defended the motorist or blamed the victim in the press.

At approximately 9:30 p.m. last Thursday, the driver of a private sanitation truck ran over a 59-year-old man on Canal Street in Chinatown, according to NYPD. The man’s body was found near Centre Street, but police didn’t know where the collision occurred. NYPD had not released the victim’s name as of this morning, and no arrests had been made.

“It was not immediately clear if the driver was aware that a pedestrian had been hit, police said,” reported DNAinfo. To see justice done for this victim and his loved ones, this is a critical detail.

To secure a conviction against a hit-and-run driver in New York State, prosecutors must prove the motorist knew or had reason to know he hit someone, causing personal injury. Thanks to state laws that favor reckless drivers, when a New York motorist strikes a pedestrian and leaves the scene, “I didn’t see him” is not an admission of guilt, but a potent defense strategy. So in effect, NYPD has offered a preemptive defense for the motorist who claimed this person’s life.

In the second crash, a hit-and-run driver in a “dark-colored sedan” killed a 59-year-old man on Rockaway Parkway near Winthrop Avenue, in Brownsville, early Saturday. The victim’s identity is still being withheld pending family notification, NYPD said, and the driver remains at large.

Local residents told NY1 that speeding is rampant on the segment of Rockaway Parkway where Saturday’s crash occurred.

“If we were able to put a mid-block crosswalk and a light that split it right down the middle, tragedies like this wouldn’t happen because people would have an option to cross,” one area resident said.

“This intersection is never safe. It’s always somebody getting hit by a car. It’s always a child getting clipped by a car a vehicle. Everybody’s always speeding, not trying to stop at the lights. Everybody’s just in a rush,” another said.

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NYPD Training Precinct Cops to Charge Drivers Who Violate Right of Way Law

All 35,000 of New York City’s uniformed police officers will be trained to file charges against drivers who violate the new Right of Way Law, according to NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan.

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan. Image: NYPD

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan. Photo: NYPD

The law, also known as Section 19-190, established misdemeanor penalties for drivers who strike and injure pedestrians or cyclists with the right of way, part of a Vision Zero legislative package Mayor de Blasio signed earlier this year. Now, a reckless driver who harms someone else could end up with a permanent criminal record instead of facing no meaningful consequences, which has typically been the case even when a motorist inflicts grievous injury or death.

Since the law went into effect in August, however, charges have remained scarce. Most citations for violating the Right of Way Law have been filed by the Collision Investigation Squad, which is staffed by fewer than 30 officers and can handle only a small fraction of crashes that result in serious injury. To date, only one reported Right of Way violation has been issued by a precinct officer. Since precinct officers are far more numerous than CIS investigators and are usually the first to arrive at a crash scene, the success of the Right of Way Law hinges on equipping them to enforce it.

I asked Chan about how the department enforces the Right of Way Law after the mayor’s press conference yesterday on the city’s new 25 mph speed limit. Here is his response, in full:

We’re in the process. We’re working with our police academy, and we’re taking a look. Because we have a large [department] — 35,000 officers are going to be doing the enforcement on that area — it’s not only on the level of CIS. We want to make sure that they have the proper guidance and the proper protocol for that.

Right now, it’s running through the course of channels, the legal bureau within the police department. And then ultimately, we will touch base also with the DA’s offices, because again, we want to make sure that we get it out there, and we get it out there correctly, because it’s a very important law that will make an impact out there. Again, with 35,000 people, we don’t want to get variations, different interpretations, and that’s part of why it’s important for us to make sure we get our people on board and get it done correctly.

I asked to confirm that precinct-level officers will be enforcing the 19-190 law. “Yes. Yes. Yes. Absolutely,” Chan said. Streetsblog has filed a freedom of information request for more information on how the department is training officers to enforce Section 19-190.