Accounts of last week’s fatal crash in Chinatown do not match that of the National Guard, which insists a convoy was following an NYPD escort when the driver of one of the trucks struck an elderly man on Canal Street after reportedly running a red light. The National Guard is not conducting its own investigation into the crash, according to a spokesperson.
The convoy was on its way to the Javits Center to pick up Sandy relief supplies on the afternoon of November 6 when Kwok Fu, 82, was killed as he attempted to cross Canal at Centre Street. Witnesses said convoy truck drivers did not slow down and gave no warning before running a series of red lights on Canal.
National Guard spokesperson Eric Durr said the convoy was following a route set by NYPD, in keeping with protocol for moving troops through urban areas, though he did not know its point of origin. Protocol may vary depending on guidance from the convoy commander and local police, Durr said, but he indicated that it is normal for a convoy to disregard traffic signals, even on a relief mission in an American city.
“Generally a convoy tries to stay together, and that is why there’s a police escort. Stop and think: When the president is in town he has a police escort, right? Does he go through red lights?”
“We can’t just drive around on our own,” Durr said. “We have to coordinate with police. They’ll set up the routes. They send the police escorts. In this case I know there was a police escort, because the convoy commander said ‘I had a police escort.'”
Durr said he does not know how the crash occurred, but believes Fu was struck by the third truck in the 11-vehicle convoy. “The gentleman stepped out from the sidewalk and the driver unfortunately could not stop in time,” said Durr. “That is my understanding.”
The presence of a police escort has yet to be corroborated by witness or media reports. Nor is it clear why, if lights and sirens were blaring, the victim would have stepped into a procession of military trucks.
David Trimble saw the collision, and told Streetsblog he was nearly hit by one of the trucks himself.
“[I]t was not immediately clear that this convoy of trucks was not going to stop at the red light,” Trimble said. “There were no blaring horns, sirens, or anything else. The pedestrian was not jaywalking or trying to beat the convoy.”
“I did not see a police escort,” Trimble said.
The National Guard is not investigating the crash, said Durr, who referred related questions to NYPD.
Streetsblog has queried NYPD concerning the status of its investigation and the National Guard’s claim that the convoy was proceeding with a police escort. We have asked City Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents the Chinatown district where Fu was killed, if she has information on the police investigation.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office does not comment on vehicular crimes or traffic crash investigations.