Update: Bus driver Paul Roper was charged with felony leaving the scene, failure to yield, and careless driving, according to NY1.
An MTA bus driver struck and killed a senior with a walker at a Brooklyn intersection and left the scene this morning. Though it was a hit-and-run crash and it appears likely the victim had the right of way, NYPD declared “no criminality” before investigators even located the driver.
According to reports and photos of the scene, the 70-year-old victim was crossing Fulton Street at Sackman Street south to north in or near an unmarked crosswalk, and the driver, traveling south on Sackman, turned east — left — onto Fulton, striking her with the rear wheels of the bus.
“(The bus driver) never stopped, just was just going,” witness Ramon Garcia told the Daily News. “He never realized what had happened. It’s a big machine. I guess you don’t feel something like that.”
The victim died at the scene. Her name has yet to be released. The woman lived in a nearby shelter and went by the nickname “Freckles,” according to DNAinfo. Update: The Times identified the victim as Carol Bell.
DNAinfo reported that police found the bus, which was out of service, at the East New York Bus Depot a short distance away. The Post said the driver was being questioned. Witnesses told DNAinfo the bus driver “stopped briefly and then continued driving.” To secure a conviction for leaving the scene, New York State law requires prosecutors to prove a driver knew or had reason to know a collision occurred.
There are no traffic signals at Fulton and Sackman. According to attorney Steve Vaccaro, based on information released by NYPD the bus driver would have had to stop for a stop sign and yield to any traffic in the intersection that was already there. If the victim was in an unmarked crosswalk at the intersection, she would have had “an absolute right of way over any motor vehicle,” Vaccaro told Streetsblog.
If the woman was determined to be outside the unmarked crosswalk, mid-block crossings of Fulton are permitted on the block where the crash occurred, since the intersection with Sackman is not signalized, Vaccaro said.
Though the driver left the scene and may have violated the Right of Way Law, NYPD told DNAinfo police “did not immediately suspect criminality.” The Right of Way Law, also known as Section 19-190, makes it a misdemeanor for a driver to injure or kill someone who is walking or biking with the right of way. NYPD has applied the law only a few dozen times since it took effect in 2014.
This morning’s crash is the first reported incident this year in which an MTA bus driver killed a pedestrian with the right of way. There were eight such fatalities in 2014. The crash comes after City Hall reached a settlement in a suit filed by the Transport Workers Union, which spent much of the year trying to gut the Right of Way Law. The settlement amounted to a clarification of the law, but the TWU trumpeted it as proof that bus drivers were wrongly arrested for killing people who were following traffic rules.