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Hit-and-Run Driver Charged With Reckless Driving for Killing 5-Year-Old

Last night just before 8:30, five-year-old Roshard Charles was crossing Empire Boulevard between Nostrand Avenue and Rogers Avenue with his mother, his baby brother, and a friend. They were just outside his family’s apartment when a double-parked driver threw her car in reverse, hit the gas and killed the boy as he was about to reach the sidewalk. The driver fled the scene, but now faces hit-and-run and reckless driving charges.

Rashard Charles. Photo: DNAinfo

Roshard Charles. Photo: DNAinfo

DNAinfo spoke this afternoon with Roshard’s mother, 27-year-old Rochelle Charles:

“I was with my baby. He was right here with me. She double parked. She wasn’t moving. She was just there. We were already walking, about to go on the sidewalk. And that’s when she started reversing really fast…I said, ‘Stop!’ I banged on [the van]. She reversed back. She heard me. She looked back. She tried to get him out of the wheel. And then she just drove off…How could you leave like that? I kept telling her to stop.”

Witnesses lifted the boy onto the hood of a nearby car and attempted to keep him awake before paramedics arrived, according to the Daily News. Charles was taken to Kings County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. NYPD says no one else was injured in the crash.

“I love him so much. I took really good care of him,” Rochelle Charles told DNAinfo. “Saturday we went to Applebee’s. It’s just me and him. Last week, we went to the movies.”

The Daily News reported that the child “darted away from his mom” before the driver crushed him, but other media accounts do not include this allegation, and NYPD told Streetsblog this afternoon that this claim was not part of its record of the crash. The Collision Investigation Squad continues to investigate the death.

After striking Charles, driver Elizabeth Mayard, 23, of Brooklyn, fled the scene, running red lights as she drove westbound on Empire. According to the Wall Street Journal, another driver who saw the crash followed her for two blocks before she pulled over and the witness convinced her to go back to the crash scene. Another witness at the scene described Mayard as hysterically crying and apologizing. She now faces charges for leaving the scene of a fatal crash, reckless driving, and three red light violations.

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Who Killed Kumar Ragunath? Police Seek Suspect as Advocates Call for Action

Photo: Jimmy Van Bramer/Twitter

State Senator Michael Gianaris and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer join neighborhood and street safety advocates to call for the arrest of the hit-and-run driver who killed Kumar Ragunath. Photo: Jimmy Van Bramer/Twitter

Kumar Ragunath, 64, came to New York from Guyana in 1987. Five years later, he and his wife bought a house in Jamaica near Richmond Hill. He loved to play cricket and listen to Indian music, and he kept working through his retirement to help fund college for his six grandchildren. Ragunath had been out of work since August, but recently found a job at the Queens Plaza Holiday Inn.

Photo: Nasha Ragunath via DNAinfo

Photo: Nasha Ragunath via DNAinfo

On March 7 at about 10:25 p.m., he was on his way to his second day of work at the hotel when he crossed Northern Boulevard near 40th Road in Long Island City. Ragunath was outside the crosswalk when the driver of a dark-colored Chevy Blazer in the westbound right-hand lane hit him. The driver kept going. Ragunath was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he was put into a medically-induced coma and died the next day.

Now, police are offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the driver who killed Ragunath. Local elected officials, neighborhood advocates and street safety activists gathered today at the crash site to call for Ragunath’s killer to be brought to justice and for safer streets, especially in the growing Long Island City neighborhood and along Northern Boulevard.

Northern Boulevard has a long record of fatalities and injuries: Last year, 8-year-old Noshat Nahian and 3-year-old Olvin Jahir Figueroa were both killed by drivers on the street. Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranked it as the second most deadly street in Queens for pedestrians. Last month, after a curb-jumping hit-and-run driver seriously injured five people at a Northern Boulevard bus shelter, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called on DOT to make the street a priority in its Vision Zero initiative. As at last month’s event, Van Bramer was joined by State Senator Michael Gianaris today.

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As Lucian Merryweather’s Family Grieves, Charges Against His Killer Reduced


Lucian Merryweather was one of at least 10 children age 12 and under killed by a New York City motorist in the last 12 months. As his family tries to cope with his death and joins others in demanding an end to traffic violence, court records say charges were downgraded against the driver who killed Lucian and injured his younger brother, Theodore.

“Our life the way it was is over,” said Lucian’s father, Gregory Merryweather, in a video by Sam Hagens, Leon Mastik, and Pieter Munnik, posted last week on The Nabe, a site produced by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. ”So ‘normal’ isn’t really the point anymore. It’s about finding another way to exist.”

“When you step back and look at it, you are surprised that that is your new community. You never envision yourself being one of those people.”

Anthony Byrd, 59, was indicted last month for the November 2 crash, which also injured a third pedestrian. Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson described what happened in a February 14 press release:

According to the indictment, video surveillance showed that on November 2, 2013, at 12:49 PM, Byrd drove his 2000 Ford Expedition westbound along Dekalb Avenue. As Byrd made a left hand turn onto Clermont Avenue, he narrowly avoided hitting two pedestrians who were walking their dog. Byrd’s S.U.V. then swerved to the right and onto a sidewalk where he struck the exterior of a restaurant, The Black Iris, located at 228 Dekalb Avenue, and a parked vehicle. Pedestrians can be seen on the video running as the vehicle made a U-turn onto the sidewalk.

Byrd then accelerated his vehicle in a diagonal direction into oncoming traffic on Dekalb Avenue. The vehicle then struck a westbound car while driving in the wrong direction along Dekalb Avenue. According to the indictment, Byrd then veered off Dekalb Avenue and onto Clermont Avenue, where he struck and broke the leg of pedestrian Elaine Driscoll, 29. Byrd then hit 4-year-old and 9-year-old brothers who were walking down the street with their mother, Anna Kovel.

Lucian was pinned under the SUV and died at the scene. Theodore was severely injured, according to the press release.

“The death of this innocent 9-year-old child and the severe injuries to his 4-year-old brother were truly tragic and avoidable and we will seek to hold the defendant accountable for his actions,” Thompson said in the release. “The people of Brooklyn must be free to walk down the streets of our borough without fear that they may be run over or injured by a motorist driving dangerously.”

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The Weekly Carnage

The Weekly Carnage is a Friday round-up of motor vehicle violence across the five boroughs. For more on the origins and purpose of this column, please read About the Weekly Carnage.

Marisol Martinez was crossing Union Avenue in Williamsburg when she was struck by an MTA bus driver making a left turn. Photo: ##http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140301/williamsburg/williamsburg-woman-struck-killed-by-mta-bus##DNAinfo##

Marisol Martinez was crossing Union Avenue in Williamsburg when she was struck by an MTA bus driver making a left turn. Photo: DNAinfo

Fatal Crashes (2 Killed This Week; 33 This Year; 1 Driver Charged*)

  • Williamsburg: Marisol Martinez, 21, Struck in Crosswalk by Turning MTA Bus Driver (Streetsblog)
  • Brownsville: Philip Crucilla, 47, Crashes SUV Into Light Pole (DNA)

A curb-jumping cab driver smashed through a storefront in the East Village. Photo: ##http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2014/03/02/cab-jumps-curb-slams-into-east-village-store-front/##CBS New York##

A curb-jumping cab driver smashed through a storefront in the East Village. Photo: CBS New York

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Pedestrian Deaths Edge Down, Following Unexplained 3-Year Rise

After three years of rising pedestrian deaths in America, there’s some good news this week about the safety of people on foot.

Has pedestrian safety turned a corner? Photo: New York Times

To really turn the corner on pedestrian safety, roads like this need to be redesigned. Photo: New York Times

Pedestrian deaths fell 8.7 percent in the first six months of 2013 compared to the same period the previous year, according to a report from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association. That means about 190 fewer people were killed while walking in the first part of 2013.

The decline follows a three-year period in which pedestrian deaths rose 15 percent from an all-time low in 2009.

Experts aren’t sure what to make of the decline, just as they had trouble explaining the three-year increase that preceded it. Allan Williams, who completed the report, said the dip may be “an anomaly.”

GHSA Chairman Kendell Poole concurred, saying in a press release,  “the preliminary findings are good news, but it’s too soon to celebrate.”

The increasing prevalence of mobile devices and distracted driving was often cited as a potential factor in the rise in pedestrian fatalities. But driving fatalities fell 3 percent during the same period.

Now that there seems to be some improvement, some cautious, preliminary theories are being floated. One is that greater awareness of pedestrian safety has led to more street designs intended to making walking safer.

Mark Plotz, vice president of Project for Public Spaces, told USA Today he hoped that was the case, “but it’s too early to know.”

Some credit for the improvement may even belong to the state of Florida, which is the deadliest state for pedestrians per capita. Florida has been making some strides to remedy its horrible record; the state recorded a remarkable 55 percent drop in pedestrian fatalities in the first half of 2013. Florida has been implementing reforms aimed at protecting pedestrians, including the hiring of two full-time pedestrian and cycling planners to help oversee design at each of its seven district offices, according to USA Today.

California, which has the highest number of pedestrian deaths, posted a 37 percent reduction. California, Texas, and Florida alone accounted for almost a third of the nation’s pedestrian fatalities in the first part of 2013, according to GHSA. Large states with lots of big cities tend to have the most pedestrian fatalities.

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DA Dan Donovan: Six Months for SI Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed 5 Year Old

A Staten Island motorist who fled the scene after hitting a mother and two young children, fatally injuring the woman’s 5-year-old son, will serve six months in jail under a plea deal from District Attorney Daniel Donovan.

Kyrillos Gendy was killed by hit-and-run driver John Sanjurjo. Sanjurjo was not charged by Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan for killing Kyrillos or injuring his mother and sister, and will serve just six months in jail.

John Sanjurjo ran over Kyrillos Gendy, his 7-year-old sister Gabriella, and 35-year-old Erieny Thomas at around 8:25 p.m. on August 9, 2013, as they crossed Richmond Road. Kyrillos had “severe internal bleeding and no pulse” when he arrived at Staten Island University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to the Times. Gabriella suffered a broken ankle, and Ms. Thomas “had a gash on her face.”

Mr. [Adam] Gendy [Kyrillos's cousin] said the family had not yet told Gabriella what had happened. “That’s a conversation we’re trying to figure out,” he said. “The mom is just an emotional wreck right now. She barely speaks.”

Adam Gendy told the Times he last saw Kyrillos an hour before the crash. “He hugged me, gave me a kiss. He’s very innocent, very full of energy, very loving. Loved Marvel superheroes. Could name you all the superheroes.”

Sanjurjo, accompanied by an attorney, waited until the next day to turn himself in to police. ”Sanjurjo’s 2013 Mercedes-Benz 350 matched the vehicle description, including dents in the hood from the impact,” the Daily News reported. “The force of the impact sent Kyrillos flying through the air. Bits of scattered food that Kyrillos’ family was carrying were found on the car.”

On the day of Kyrillos’s funeral, Sanjurjo, 33, was arraigned and freed on $35,000 bail. He was charged with one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, and two counts of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury. ”You got the wrong guy, man,” Sanjurjo told reporters outside the courthouse.

A handful of times in recent memory, New York City district attorneys have brought homicide charges against sober drivers in fatal crashes. But Donovan did not charge Sanjurjo with assault or homicide for injuring Kyrillos’s mom and sister and leaving the boy to die in the street.

New York State law gives drivers an incentive to leave the scene of a serious crash. For one thing, the penalty for hit-and-run is less severe than the penalty for drunk driving. And under current law the decision to issue charges for leaving the scene rests on the ability to divine driver intent, lending credibility to the “I didn’t see him” defense. Cleaning up hit-and-run laws is one of the goals in the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero plan.

On February 28, Sanjurjo pled guilty to the top leaving the scene charge, a class D felony that carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail, according to court records and the Staten Island Advance.

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Electeds Want MTA Onboard With Vision Zero After Latest Pedestrian Death

Marisol Martinez was struck by an MTA bus driver as she crossed Union Avenue at Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports and photos from the scene. Image: Google Maps

Marisol Martinez was struck by an MTA bus driver as she crossed Union Avenue at Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn with her cousin and a friend. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports and a witness account. Image: Google Maps

Electeds and advocates called for changes at the MTA and for Mayor de Blasio to focus street safety resources on northern Brooklyn after another pedestrian was killed by a bus driver this weekend.

Marisol Martinez, 21, was crossing Union Avenue at Meeker Street in Williamsburg with two other people at around 1:25 a.m. Saturday when she was hit by a bus driver making a left turn.

“When we were in the middle of the crosswalk, we saw the bus, and we saw it too late,” the victim’s cousin, Jose Gonzales, said at a press conference on Sunday. ”We had the right to cross, so I mean, for the bus not to yield, for it not to stop, I don’t know.”

Martinez was at least the tenth pedestrian or cyclist killed by an MTA bus driver in the last 12 months. Photo via ##http://nypost.com/2014/03/01/woman-21-killed-by-bus-in-williamsburg/##New York Post##

Martinez was at least the tenth pedestrian or cyclist killed by an MTA bus driver in the last 12 months. Photo via NY Post

Gonzales, 22, said he and his friend Jonathan Acosta, also 22, ran to get out of the driver’s path, and barely avoided being hit themselves. Martinez was behind them. She was first hit by the front of the bus, Gonzales said, and was run over by the right rear tire.

“I made it in time, my friend [Acosta] made it in time, but as I turned around at the same time I saw my cousin go down face first and get ran over. It ran over her body, and I didn’t see her anymore on my side. I went around the other side to see her crushed. Her leg was crushed. The flesh was all over the floor. I couldn’t bear to see it. I saw her on the floor. I couldn’t get near her. I couldn’t do anything to help her anymore. My friend screamed for the bus to back up. It never did.”

Acosta told the driver, an unidentified 50-year-old woman, to move the bus off of Martinez, Gonzales said. “She said she couldn’t do anything about it.” The Daily News reported that the bus driver was not charged for turning a bus into a crosswalk where three people were walking. As of this afternoon, a spokesperson told Streetsblog NYPD could not confirm information on charges or summonses, and said the investigation is ongoing.

Martinez was a sophomore at Hunter College and wanted to be a nurse, according to a News 12 report.

Martinez was the third pedestrian or cyclist killed by an MTA bus driver in 2014, and at least the tenth such fatality in the last 12 months, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. On Sunday, officials joined loved ones of Martinez, Ella Bandes, and Seth Kahn — who were fatally struck by bus drivers in 2013 and 2009, respectively — at Grand Street and Borinquen Place. On hand were City Council members Steve Levin and Antonio Reynoso and Assembly members Joe Lentol and Martiza Davila.

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The Weekly Carnage

The Weekly Carnage is a Friday round-up of motor vehicle violence across the five boroughs. For more on the origins and purpose of this column, please read About the Weekly Carnage.

Gedalya Grinzaid was crossing a street in Crown Heights when he was fatally hit by a Department of Sanitation truck driver. No charges were filed. Photo: ##http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140223/crown-heights/25-year-old-struck-killed-by-nyc-sanitation-truck##DNAinfo##

Gedalya Grinzaid was crossing a street in Crown Heights, in a crosswalk with the signal, when he was fatally hit by a Department of Sanitation truck driver. No charges were filed. Photo: DNAinfo

Fatal Crashes (5 Killed Since Feb. 14; 31 This Year; 1 Driver Charged*)

  • Crown Heights: Gedalya Grinzaid, 25, Struck by Department of Sanitation Truck Driver in Crosswalk; No Charges or Summonses (Streetsblog)
  • Jamaica: Kaneez Hussein, 73, Killed by Hit-and-Run Driver Found to Have Suspended License (Post, TL)
  • Jamaica: Man Struck by JFK Shuttle Driver While Attempting to Cross Van Wyck Expressway (PostDNA)
  • Flushing: Two Killed on Long Island Expressway After Car Veered Off Road, Crashed Into Tree (Post, TL)

A car crash in Great Kills knocked over a fire hydrant, flooding the street. Photo: ##http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2014/02/car_crash_takes_out_hydrant_in.html##SI Advance##

A car crash in Great Kills left the street flooded after a fire hydrant was knocked over. Photo: SI Advance

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Heat Maps Show Where Traffic Takes the Most Lives in NYC

2013 traffic deaths. Image: I Quant NY

2013 traffic deaths. Image: I Quant NY

As city government started work on the Vision Zero Action Plan, statistics professor Ben Wellington saw an opportunity to use data on crashes and fatalities to show the magnitude of the challenge.

Wellington teaches a statistics course to Pratt Institute city planning students using open data from New York City government. He also uses city data to create maps on his blog, I Quant NY. This week, he mapped last year’s traffic fatalities and cyclist injuries, using NYPD data compiled by volunteers developers into the Crash Data Band-Aid.

Wellington’s results show some familiar patterns: Streets like Broadway in Williamsburg, Queens Boulevard, and Grand Concourse pop up in the fatality data, in addition to spikes of traffic fatalities in neighborhoods from Canarsie to Jackson Heights to Midtown. Using city-defined neighborhood boundaries, Wellington calculated that 23 percent of all traffic deaths last year occurred in just five percent of the city’s neighborhoods, though fatalities were spread across the city.

Last year, there were more than 3,800 reported cyclist injuries in New York City. Image: I Quant NY

Last year, there were more than 3,800 reported cyclist injuries in New York City. Image: I Quant NY

There were more than 3,800 reported cyclist injuries last year, with the highest concentrations in Williamsburg, Clinton Hill, Jackson Heights, and Manhattan below 59th Street. Wellington notes that this geographic concentration could be reflective of where the greatest number of people are riding bikes, not necessarily the most dangerous places for cyclists. Though the total number of crashes may be high in a particular zone, Wellington says, the crash rate is likely to be lower due to the high ridership density in the area.

“The hope is that with Vision Zero in place,” he wrote, “future maps like this will be much sparser.”

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NYPD: 1,191 Pedestrians and Cyclists Injured, 13 Killed in Traffic in January

Image: NYPD

Image: NYPD

Twenty-one people died in New York City traffic in January, and 3,899 were injured, according to the latest NYPD crash data report [PDF].

As of the end of January, 13 pedestrians and cyclists were reported killed by city motorists this year, and 1,191 injured, compared to 20 deaths and 1,297 injuries for the same period in 2013.

Citywide, at least 12 pedestrians and one cyclist were fatally struck by drivers. Among the victims were Xiaoci Hu, Mosa Khatun, Alexander Shear, Cooper Stock, Nydja Herring, Angela Hurtado, Pedro Santiago, Samantha Lee, James Benedict, and unnamed male pedestrians in the Bronx and Queens. At least one child and four seniors were killed by motorists in January: Cooper Stock, 9; Xiaoci Hu, 75; Alexander Shear, 73; Angela Hurtado, 68; and James Benedict, 67.

Across the city, 1,075 pedestrians and 116 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of 11 fatal crashes reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, one motorist was known to have been charged for causing a death. Michael Pogorzelski was charged with manslaughter and DWI for the crash that killed Staten Island pedestrian James Benedict. Historically, nearly half of motorists who kill a New York City pedestrian or cyclist do not receive so much as a citation for careless driving.

Seven motorists and one passenger died in the city in January; 1,295 and 1,413 were injured, respectively.

There were 16,597 motor vehicle crashes in the city last month, including 2,938 that resulted in injury or death.

Download January NYPD summons data here. Crashes are mapped here. Crash and summons data from prior months is available in multiple formats here.

After the jump: contributing factors for crashes resulting in injury and death.

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