NYPD on Fatal Delancey Street Crash: “Looks Like It Was Just an Accident”

The police department confirmed this morning that no criminal charges have been filed against the bus driver who struck and killed a woman riding a bike on Delancey Street Tuesday afternoon. (The police have not released the identity of the victim, since the family hasn’t been notified yet.)

"I don’t believe that anyone will be charged," said a spokesman with NYPD’s public information office who gave his name as Officer Debonis. "The driver remained on the scene. Looks like it was just an accident."

According to an eyewitness account reported by NY1, the bus driver backed over the victim while onlookers shouted at him to stop. "We’re not confirming any of that," said Debonis. When asked for more details on the circumstances of the crash, he could say only that both the bus and victim were on the east-bound side of Delancey.

Whatever protocols may be at work here, it’s hard to see how the lack of transparency from NYPD is advancing public safety. We’ll also note that this is Cy Vance’s first full week on the job as Manhattan DA. The unanswered questions left in the wake of this crash bring home the urgency of Vance’s campaign pledge to beef up the DA’s Vehicular Crimes Unit.

  • Allan

    why was the bus backing up? was the biker clipped in? This scares me as it is unusual for a bus to bike up and I have been behind them int he past. don’t they have some sort of rear viewing system? camera like the prius perhaps?

  • MRB

    If it was a yellow school bus, it’s very unlikely it had anything other than the fisheye mirrors. I don’t know if there were kids on the bus, but that can be a significant confounding factor and those mirrors don’t eliminate blind spots either.

    I don’t understand the claim of ‘non-transparency’ here. I for one appreciate the police not releasing many statements until everything is ‘known’. There’s no reason any of us couldn’t make a mistake that results in someone dying. Would you want the police spreading your name all over the place?

  • The bus driver should be in jail. The police are lazy and treat bicyclists as best as nuisances. F the bus driver. F the police.

  • Because a driver didn’t mean to do it, because it’s an “accident” doesn’t mean it didn’t happen- a life is lost. This driver killed someone. I don’t care that she was in a blind spot, you should not have to pay with your life for careless driver’s mistakes. You can’t tell if its clear, don’t back up. It’s going to keep happening until punishments cause drivers to think.

  • glenn

    What about a ticket? What about suspending his commercial license? Or regular license? Points on insurance? There must be remedies besides intentional assault/drunk driving and “no charges”, killer drives away

  • flp

    this may have been pointed out before, but i will do so here as well to be sure this observation is out there. the aerial photo from WABC clearly shows the back of the bus abutting the crosswalk (http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news/local&id=7202503). what the hell was a large commercial vehicle doing backing up into a crosswalk?????? that is dangerous beyond comprehension! why hasn’t there been any discussion of that?

    as for the NYPD “not confirming any of that [eyewitness accounts],” who are they talking to – themselves? typical bunch of crass, ignorant fools!

  • drewo

    NYPD needs to expand their vocabulary, so that the word “accident” is not reflexively applied to almost every deadly motor vehicle-induced incident. “Negligence” and “carelessness” may, in many cases, be a more accurate description of these incidents.

  • NattyB

    In order to get drivers to drive better, there must be consequences to actions that results in death. However, I believe the police and DA are right for not prosecuting the driver in this case. There is no way they can convict her of anything, remember. But, this case is a good illustration of the difficulty in crafting legislation that would capture The Driver’s conduct in this case, without capturing tons of actual no-fault accidents:

    (i) Driver didn’t do anything illegal under the law — We can bitch all we want, but, under the law, there’s pretty much nothing the driver did illegally. Backing up when you go over the crosswalk, if that’s the case, isn’t a criminal offense. It’s a traffic infraction at worst. The prosecution would have to show that the driver acted “recklessly,” or ignored a grave risk to human life, or something to that effect (I forget the exact statutory requirements). You’d have to submit evidence that the driver knew that the people shouting at her, where shouting about someone behind them; you’d have to show that the driver heard people shouting. It’s possible, that the driver even looked behind her, and, if the biker was already underneath the bus, then it woudln’t be reasonale to presume that the driver could see there.

    (ii) Driver (and the bus company) could lose in a civil lawsuit though that’s not clear — Being over the cross walk could be “negligence per-se”, but even then, cross-walks are meant to protect people crossing the street, not fallen bikers, so it’s not even clear that the Plaintiff would prevail under these set of facts.

    (iii) To change the law towards more accountability towards drivers in these situations would impose an incredibly high burden on drivers — I know this may not be popular, but, in order to hold the driver responsible in this case, if the facts are, she went over the crosswalk and slowly backed over the biker (jesus that’s an awful way to go) — then what standard under these circumstances would you guys like to see employed? Strict liablity [meaning, anytime someone dies in an accident, you’re liable, regardless of fault]? That wouldn’t be fair, if, for example, someone tries killing themselves by running in front of your vehicle? The Tom Brokaw crash, last month, would’ve subjected Tom Brokaw to liability where someone died.

    (iv) We still can enact laws that could help. For example, If you hit someone while on the phone, bam, straight to jail. The key is, we need to have laws, so that drivers fear going to jail more, then they fear the psychological trauma of killing someone. But, in this case, I just don’t think the driver did anything legally wrong.

  • The details of this crash s reported are deeply disturbing and my heart goes out to the victim and anyone who cared for her.

    It seems to me hat the driver was, at a minimum, prematurely exonerated of violating New York State VTL 1146, failing to exercise due care to avoid injuring a bicyclist. A driver is responsible for making sure that s/he is not driving over a person when applying foot to accelerator, whether the gear is in forward or in reverse. Even if the bus driver in this instance looked in the rear view mirror and saw nothing, I just don’t buy that it is possible to run over a person and a bicycle and not be aware that something wrong is happening. There must have been some level of unusual resistance when the rear wheel of the bus hit the victim and her bicycle. What was the driver thinking? That she was hopping the curb? I know all of the facts are not in, and I may be proved wrong, but it sure appears that NYPD has acted prematurely in concluding that the driver did not violate VTL 1146. Good Lord, NYPD’s information 24 hours ago was the cyclist struck the bus; now that we know how wrong that was, how can they so quickly conclude that the driver had no awareness that she was harming a person or property? What is the point of rushing to that conclusion?

    Natty B is correct that this and other traffic violations the bus driver may have committed in connection with this incident are infractions, and that criminal liability requires more than simple negligence. However prosecutors have little hope of bringing a case of criminal negligence or a more serious charge, if the police fail (as they seem to have done in this case) even to issue a summons for violation of VTL 1146. That failure also hurts the potential for a civil recovery.

  • A priori it’s a bad idea and not recommended to drive a bus or truck in reverse gear in traffic, and especially at intersections. I learned this long ago when I was studying the CDL manual. Drivers of buses and trucks can’t see behind their vehicles like automobile drivers can.

    At rush hour, many of the intersections along Delancey Street have traffic agents assigned to them. If the bus had pulled into an intersection with agent, it is possible that the agent could have signaled to the driver to drive in reverse to clear the intersection for traffic going in the other direction, with lethal results.

  • David_K

    That photo broke my heart. My deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the victim of this needless tragedy.

    A protected 2-way bike lane could and should run all the way down Delancy from the bridge to Bowery. No excuses.

  • Peter from Stuy Town

    At this point, I just want to know why the bus was backing up and whether that’s negligence.

    I’m not happy with the police response either. Rather than debating it here, I suggest contacting the DA’s office and 7th Precinct and asking for answers as to whether there will be a further investigation. I just spoke to the DA Office’s 7th Precinct coordinator, Linda Janneh, and am trying to reach Community Affairs at the 7th Precinct.

    If enough of us do something, who knows.

  • Ian

    Is this a photo of the actual event or a related photo?

  • Jesus!

    What does it take just to get a “careless driving” ticket after killing someone in NYC?!?!

  • Danny P

    This is insane. If that bus driver doesn’t feel responsible for her death than I hope he is “accidently” hit by a truck. the law sucks at life about 90% of the time. My heart goes out to the cyclist and anyone that knew her.

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