6-Year-Old Boy Fatally Hit by Truck in Brooklyn

south_brooklyn_casket.jpg

Three mornings a week I ride past the South Brooklyn Casket Company on Union Street with my two-year-old son strapped to the back of my bicycle on our way to the nursery school. Though the Casket Company always has trucks parked and unloading all over the sidewalk (and someone, I assume it’s the boss, likes to park his Mercedes right next to the building’s front door), I’ve always had a real soft spot for the Casket Co.. It is one of the last functioning light industrial companies in the neighborhood. And I know that my block, the stretch of little townhouses on the south side of Union between 4th and 5th was once filled with Italian funeral parlors. Bearing the pre-gentrifcation name, "South Brooklyn," the Casket Company is one of the last genuine remnants of the old neighborhood.

So, it was doubly depressing to hear that a Casket Company truck driver blew through a red light and ran over and killed a 6-year-old boy in Sunset Park yesterday. It is triple depressing that guy doesn’t even get charged with anything. What is going to make New Yorkers stop driving like careless, sociopathic maniacs when there is absolutely no enforcement, no penalty and not a peep from the Mayor or any other elected official — even when a child is slaughtered by a trucker who told police he was trying to beat a red light

Here is Gothamist’s coverage of the sad, disturbing story:

Yesterday afternoon, a 6 year old boy was fatally hit by a truck
in Sunset Park. The boy, Andy Vega, apparently ran ahead of his babysitter when
crossing Third Avenue and 46th Street, and a truck carrying empty coffins from
Milso Industries struck him. The driver stayed at the scene.

Another pedestrian, Randolph Charles, who was crossing the street at the same
time told
the Post
, "The boy was on the other side of the street. We were both
crossing. The truck was coming, and all I heard was a big bang. The truck ran a
red light.
We had the walk sign. I told him, ‘You know, you just hit the kid.’
And he said, ‘I thought I had the green light.’ Then he grabbed his head, and
you could see he was in shock."

Granted, it sounds like this whole thing was a horrible accident and the driver is shattered. But why, in New York City, do killer drivers consistently walk away from the scene of the crime with little more than a summons? How in the world is that O.K.? In the Spring of 2004 Transportation Alternatives Magazine ran a Q&A with veteran Brooklyn prosecutor Maureen McCormick, head of the Vehicular Crimes
Bureau at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. Here is what she said:

T.A. Executive Director John Kaehny: Let’s say a mom is walking hand in hand with her young son across the street. They are coming back from a nice morning in the park, it’s broad daylight, they are in the crosswalk and have the walk signal. Suddenly, a motorist runs the red light and kills them both. The motorist pulls over and is found to be sober. Would that motorist be charged with a crime?

A.D.A McCormick: Limited to those facts, that motorist would be summonsed for running a red light. A criminal prosecution requires showing that the motorist ran the red light because of more than carelessness or inadvertence. The driver’s behavior at the time of running the light is usually the only way to prove the driver’s state of mind. The state of a person’s mind is a difficult thing to prove. They don’t generally yell out "I’m going through this light on purpose."

Photo by Venus in Furs on Flickr

  • AD

    “The driver stayed at the scene.”

    It has come to the point where this fact is actually worth noting.

  • Lane Wyden

    could it be that the driver’s admission is sufficient to establish that what he did was more than just “carelessness or inadvertence” ?

  • Unfortunately, this is not limited to NYC. This was recently reported in the town where I went to school back in Illinois.

    http://www.news-gazette.com/ngsearch/index.cfm?&page=displyStory.cfm&yearfolder=the06news&file=113006%5Fngstory%5F71210%2Etxt&search=Stark&theorder=asaphrase

  • ddartley

    What will it be? This, or Eric Ng, or my friend’s friend who I just learned was killed on Queens Boulevard yesterday—that will get people finally to march, or demonstrate in large numbers, screaming that this traffic system is very good at killing people?

  • AD

    So “Carelessness or inadvertence” is the standard by which we hold drivers accountable for their actions?

    Imagine if some construction workers were loading steel beams off of a truck onto a construction site, and because of carelessness or inadvertence one of the beams accidentally struck and killed a passer by.

    What would happen?

    The worker(s) deemed at fault would be charged with criminally negligent homicide.

    How is that crime any different than this hypothetical driver’s?

    (Answer: There are more drivers than construction workers in this world, and so they have more political power.)

  • Or to use an old analogy, if I’m walking in Times Square, and I carelessly or inadverntently allow a gun in my possession to fire, killing a passerby, I will surely be charged with a crime, even if I am licensed to carry it.

    People are expected to take responsibility for their guns. For some reason they aren’t expected to take responsibility for their cars.

  • Steve

    ADA McCormick’s answer in the interview is a bit of a dodge. There are ways to establish that a driver’s running a red light is not accidental or inadvertent if there are witnesses, based on whether the driver slowed down or sped up before or after the red light. Were they on a roadway on which the driver would have seen flashing pedestrian “don’t walk” signals, or traffic lights turning yellow up ahead, before the light they ran turned yellow? You can infer at least recklessness and even purposeful conduct from such facts.

    However it is difficult to establish the necessary proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Especially when if jury is full of people sympathetic to the driver. So the ADAs throw up their hands and don’t try. It’s hard to blame them, but its also a vicious cycle–lack of prosecution of “careless” drivers for serious offenses maintains the status quo in which murder with a car is “folk crime.” More prosecutions of “careless” drivers, for more serious crimes, would (over time) change the mindset of the jury pool.

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