Maria Beria, Aileen Martinez, Sheena Mathew, Ronald Sinvil, Miguel Torres
In separate crashes in Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx, city motorists killed five pedestrians between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Four of the crashes, which took the lives of a child and three young mothers, were hit-and-runs.
At approximately 8:45 a.m. on December 28, 11-year-old Miguel Torres of Jackson Heights was crossing at Northern Boulevard and 80th Street, in the crosswalk and with the light, when he was hit by the driver of a dump truck.
Miguel was on his way to participate in a school field trip to Grand Central Terminal when he was killed. Olga Gonzalez, who witnessed the aftermath of the crash, told the Post: “It was so bad, when the ambulance guy came, he was crying … The car hit [Miguel] so hard his shoes came off. I just saw a little kid in the middle of the street, and I just started crying.”
The driver, who did not stop, was later located by police. To the dismay of Miguel’s grieving family, no criminal charges were filed. From DNAinfo:
“They’re just giving him summonses,” [Miguel's aunt Yolanda] Ardezzone said. “I think he should get more than summonses — jail time, so this won’t happen to another child.”
A spokeswoman for the NYPD said that although the police originally stated the child was involved in a hit-and-run, police were actually able to track down the driver at the scene.
“It appeared the driver was unaware they struck someone,” said the spokeswoman. No criminal charges had been filed by Sunday, but she said the case was still under investigation.
In New York State, a driver must know or have reason to know that he or she has caused injury in order to be charged for leaving the scene of a fatal crash. Even when police and prosecutors muster the will to bring charges — no sure thing by any means — an admission that the motorist “didn’t see” the victim serves as a reliable defense. From the Daily News:
A few hours after the incident, police found the driver of the 1988 truck in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He told police he didn’t know he had hit someone, tested negative for alcohol and had a valid driver’s license. Police said no criminal charges will be filed.
No charges, though according to the same Daily News story: “A police source said the truck’s rear wheels struck the boy, though a second source said the boy may have first been struck from the front end of the truck.”
If Queens District Attorney Richard Brown does indeed pursue a criminal case against Miguel Torres’s killer, it is a virtual lock that leaving the scene would be the top charge. Minus evidence of intoxication, a city motorist who kills a pedestrian or cyclist is practically guaranteed to escape charges for taking a life.