Trucker Kills 7-Year-Old in East Harlem; NYPD and Media Eye Crossing Guard

A 7-year-old boy was killed by a truck driver this morning while walking to school in East Harlem. While no charges were filed against the driver, police and media are focused on the actions of a crossing guard, who was reportedly on a break when the crash occurred.

Trucks over 55 feet are not allowed on NYC surface streets without a permit. According to reports, the truck driver who killed Amar Diarrassouba was driving on a street that is not a designated truck route. He was not charged. Photo: 1010 WINS via ##http://gothamist.com/2013/02/28/6-year-old_boy_killed_killed_by_tra.php##Gothamist##

Amar Diarrassouba and his 10-year-old brother were crossing First Avenue at E. 117th Street, east to west, when, according to reports, the westbound driver of a tractor-trailer ran over the younger boy while turning right from 117th to First. The driver was stopped by witnesses some distance away. The Post writes:

“It was crazy. I saw a man chasing the truck on 119th Street,” said neighborhood resident Vinny Brasero, 49.

“I saw the boy, there was just so much blood, I knew he wasn’t going to make it. I couldn’t even get too close because when I saw he wasn’t moving and all that blood, it didn’t look good.”

The victim’s big brother was “hysterical, crying” at the scene, according to Brasero.

“I was crying a little bit because I have kids,” he added.

East 117th Street is a narrow, one-way street. It is not a truck route. Trucks exceeding 55 feet in length, like the one involved in this crash, are not allowed on surface streets without a permit. McClane trucking, which apparently owns the truck, is based in Texas. Trucks registered outside New York are exempt from the state’s crossover mirror requirement. It appears from a Post photo that the truck is not equipped with the mirrors, which allow truck drivers to see what is directly in front of them.

Of all the factors that contributed to this fatality — massive trucks allowed on city streets, a loophole in a state law, the truck driver’s failure to yield to two kids while driving on a neighborhood street not designated for trucks — reports say authorities are investigating why a crossing guard stationed at the intersection was not present at the time of the crash. Naturally, this is the detail the city press corps has zeroed in on.

While NYPD focused on the crossing guard, police defended the driver. From DNAinfo:

“Tractor trailers often have to make very wide turns,” said a police spokesman at the scene. “It’s possible, given the height of the vehicle and the kind of turn he had to make, that he just didn’t see the kid.”

Trucks registered outside New York are not required to have crossover mirrors, which allow drivers to see what's in front of them. Photo: Post

And the Daily News:

“Apparently he didn’t see them,” NYPD spokesman Joseph Cavitolo said of the driver, who was not charged.

Civilians on the scene exhibited a firmer grasp of the elements of the crash than NYPD. Again, from the News:

[Hugo] Skinner, 46, said the truck had no business being on 117th St. He said trucks should be traveling on 116th St., which is a two-way street.

“This is not a commercial street,” he said. “This is a local street. It’s something that’s completely ignored.”

And the Post:

Brasero complained that truck traffic is too dangerous for 117th and First: “This block, 117th, has become a truck route and it’s too narrow a street. Why don’t they use 116th Street?”

This fatal crash occurred in the 25th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Nilda Hofmann, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 25th Precinct council meetings happen at 6:30 p.m. on the last Wednesday of the month at various locations. Call 212-860-6526 for information.

The City Council district where Amar Diarrassouba was killed is represented by Melissa Mark-Viverito. Though Mark-Viverito is one of the council’s strongest voices for street safety, it never hurts to alert an elected to dangerous conditions. Mark-Viverito can be reached at 212-788-6960, mviverito@council.nyc.gov and @MMViverito.

  • Ari

    Horrible.  Just horrible.

    Message for NYPD spokesman Joseph Cavitolo:
    Perhaps the driver “didn’t see them.”  I doubt he deliberately ran over the kid.  But that’s not the point.  He has the RESPONSIBILITY to see them.

    I wonder what NYPD would say if/when someone runs over a police officer “by accident.”

  • Eric McClure

    RAY KELLY! MIKE BLOOMBERG! CHRIS QUINN! BILL DE BLASIO! JIMMY VACCA!

    THIS IS A FIRST-GRADER! FIRST-GRADERS (AND EVERYONE ELSE) SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO CROSS A NEW YORK CITY STREET WITHOUT GETTING CRUSHED TO DEATH BY A MOTOR VEHICLE!

    GODDAMMIT, DO SOMETHING!

  • Lisa Sladkus

    And we wonder why parents are freaked out about letting their kids navigate the city alone. I’m not worried at all about abductions. It’s this damn out-of-control traffic that kills our city. This poor family.

  • Anonymous

    What is “criminality” if not driving a bazillion-ton killing machine on a residential street during school commute hours?  How could the driver not even be charged for that?

  • Joe R.

    @ee49761fe67ba5a3452273b7c65aca21:disqus I think it’s going to take the deaths of people in the families of either police officers or prominent officials before something gets done about this problem. The hard truth is we’re just accepting this nearly daily carnage as the price of doing business. In a civilized society that shouldn’t be. These deaths are easily preventable via low cost measures. I think it speaks volumes how out of touch elected officials are when people killed on subway tracks, many of whom actually put themselves in harm’s way, elicit special meetings but the higher carnage on our streets doesn’t.

  • I am so sick of NYPD making excuses for killer motorists. They do it not so much to excuse the driver (although that is sometimes also a motive) but rather to excuse their own failure to seriously investigate what happened.  After all, if the driver didn’t see, then there’s “no criminality,” and less (or no) work for police to do.

  • Guest

    Any comment from Bill de Blasio, Christine Quinn, or James Vacca on the murder of this child? No? Shame on them.

  • I raised yesterday on Twitter the possibility that there should be some kind of protest after this recent spate of obscene traffic killings. I moved in August from London and there the London Cycle Campaign in 2011 organized a Tour du Danger, cycling round London’s most dangerous intersections. I wonder if there’s scope for a similar bike ride around the scene of some of the most egregious “no criminality suspected” traffic killings, ending up at Police Plaza. Even having only lived here a short time, I’m getting sick of standing by while this goes on.

  • Driver

    “[Hugo] Skinner, 46, said the truck had no business being on 117th St. He
    said trucks should be traveling on 116th St., which is a two-way
    street.”
    This is a food service distribution company that delivers to many chain restaurants.  It is very possible that this truck made a delivery to the Subway shop on 116 St, and approached on 116 St., in which case he would have to go around the block to legally return to the truck route.

    If the vehicle was in motion when the accident occurred, crossover mirrors would not be a preventative measure for this type of accident. 

    These tractor trailers not only make very wide turns, but generally make these turns fairly slowly, as they should.  The problem is there is time for pedestrians to enter the turning radius of the truck after the driver determines that all is clear to make the turn, and before the turn is completed.  I witnessed this happen on Tuesday as a tractor trailer made a right turn slowly and carefully onto 57th St.  A young woman who was not present when the truck started making his turn started walking into the crosswalk, and into the turning radius of the trailer while the truck was already well into the turn and the crosswalk was completely blocked by the middle of the trailer.  Fortunately she realized and retreated out.

    “”It’s been a horrible day,” said the truck’s passenger, while the driver
    sat alone in the truck with his head buried in his arms. “Never could
    have imagined my day would turn out like this.”Sadly, this is what could have prevented this accident.  The passenger, assuming they were sitting in the passenger seat, could have a complete view of the right side of the turning truck and could watch the turn in progress and alert the driver to any pedestrians. 

  • Anonymous

    I’d say that if you are forced by “geometry” to make a maneuver where you can’t see what you are doing, the very definition of “due care” would be to make it really really REALLY slowly. Perhaps a speed of 1 mph would be reasonable. That way, if any pedestrians happen to be in the way, they’ll be likely to get out of the way.

  • Of course the CBS noon news report said no charges will likely be filed with the driver.  BUT, CBS wanted to know if there was a crossing guard posted and promised to look that.  Yeah, let’s shift the blame to a crossing guard not being posted instead of the driver.

    To their credit, at least one of the soundbites had a witness saying the driver had to have known he hit somebody.

  • Anonymous

    Why do we let huge trailer trucks make *local* deliveries (e.g., possibly to a sandwich shop as suggested by Driver) in the first place? Why not make them transfer their stuff to smaller trucks outside the city? Yes, I imagine it would raise costs, but I think some cities do that. I think it’s a fair price to pay for safety and for a better local environment.

  • Ray Kelly, NYPD

    Yawn.

  • Driver

    In addition to raising costs, it would greatly increase the number of trucks entering and driving within the city. 

  • CBS 2 looking like their 5 pm report is gonna be even worse than imagined.  They just teased the story at 4 pm “A horrible accident (shot of kid’s backpack on the ground takes the life of a child.”  SUPER on screen: WHERE WAS THE CROSSING GUARD?  Seriously, no mention of the driver being careless….I’ll try to get a screenshot of it if they tease it again.

  • It’s one of numerous arguments for a New York City congestion charge that it might push such deliveries to times of day when kids aren’t going to school: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2013/02/subway-fares-gas-tax-and-why-its-too.html It would certainly be a good idea to charge trucks of such a size a realistic charge for their size and weight and consequent tendency to damage the streets and kill people. One of the things London got wrong with its congestion charge was that it bowed to trucker lobbying and didn’t charge trucks extra.
    Having said that, I do recognize that sadly no congestion charge in the immediate future is likely to cover as high up as 117th street.

  • Brad Aaron

    As it happens I went to Amsterdam over the holiday. Didn’t see any 18-wheelers. Didn’t notice an overabundance of smaller trucks. Didn’t hear of any problems with businesses having goods delivered.

  • How convenient to blame the crossing guard for taking a break. As if people in this city only get mowed down by motorists when official looking people in reflective vests go have a smoke or get an egg sandwich on weekday mornings.

    What’s the excuse for the 30+ other deaths so far this year?  Where was the crossing guard when Martha Atwater, a mother of two young girls, was killed on the sidewalk in Brooklyn Heights?  A woman was killed on the sidewalk on 27th and 3rd on Sunday. Where was the crossing guard?  Where was the crossing guard when Ella Bandes was killed by an MTA bus in Bushwick?  

    Attention pedestrians of New York: from now on please refrain from crossing the street in areas where no crossing guard is present.

  • Driver

    “Amsterdam has a population of 820,256 within city limits” (approx. 85 sq miles)

    New York County is the most densely populated county in the United States, and one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with a 2010 population of 1,585,873[2] living in a land area of 22.96 square miles

    Apples and oranges.

  • Driver

    After thinking about my earlier comment, I realized what would be a reasonable, albeit expensive solution to the problem of safely operating tractor trailers on city roads would be to require two licensed drivers in the vehicle, one would be in the passenger seat as a second set of eyes to cover blind spots, and could get out of the vehicle when needed to ensure safe backing, turning, or maneuvering.  

  • Joe R.

    @bradaaron:disqus You might be trading one set of problems for another. Offloading the cargo in one 18-wheeler could mean two or three or four smaller trucks on the street. More traffic, and these smaller trucks still have blind spots. We need to require cameras on any trucks operated in the city so as to cover ALL potential blind spots. That will also get rid of any excuses by the driver such as “it was clear when I started my turn”. Warning flashers on the side and/or alarms when turning wouldn’t be a bad idea, either, just as we already require an alarm when a large vehicle is backing. What surprises me is many of the measures taken by OSHA to reduce workplace injury are equally applicable to road safety, and yet we continue to run vehicles which don’t even have basic ways to prevent these kinds of incidents.

  • I don’t know, @SB_Driver:disqus – somewhere between New York’s apples and Amsterdam’s oranges we can probably find a way to stop kids from getting mowed down in the crosswalk with the right of way.

    One needn’t go to Amsterdam to figure out that something can be done.  Think about the Fulton Street Mall in Brooklyn or Times Square.  Following the do-nothing logic of throwing up our hands and saying, “Oh well, trucks have to make deliveries” those areas should be wastelands of barren shelves and starving restaurant patrons.  Yet somehow it all works out.

    So let’s stop saying “This isn’t Amsterdam” and start saying what what New York actually is and what we want it to be.  Because right now it’s a place where first graders, elderly people, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and all kinds of people routinely get crushed to death by trucks.

  • Brad Aaron

    So NYC is bigger than Amsterdam, is what you’re saying. Thanks for clarifying.

    How about London? Many 18-wheelers delivering bread there? Paris? Tokyo?

    I’m not very well-traveled, admittedly.

  • Anonymous

    Paris has a population density approaching that of Manhattan, and yet if my memory serves they don’t deliver baguettes to local cafes on 18-wheelers.

    Mexico City doesn’t quite have the density, but it certainly has the population, and they don’t tend to make local deliveries using 18-wheelers either. The big trucks do arrive to a few strategic places, such as the huge wholesale market known as the “Central de Abasto”. You may see trailer trucks on some of the main arterials, but not on one-lane local streets.

  • Anonymous

    Paris has a population density approaching that of Manhattan, and yet if my memory serves they don’t deliver baguettes to local cafes on 18-wheelers.

    Mexico City doesn’t quite have the density, but it certainly has the population, and they don’t tend to make local deliveries using 18-wheelers either. The big trucks do arrive to a few strategic places, such as the huge wholesale market known as the “Central de Abasto”. You may see trailer trucks on some of the main arterials, but not on one-lane local streets.

  • Anonymous

    @SB_Driver:disqus This list of world cities by population density lists New York at 114:
    http://www.citymayors.com/statistics/largest-cities-density-125.html
    That’s well below, say, Paris, at 69.
    I’ve seen other lists that put New York at other places, but all the ones that seem to be rigorously handled rank it surprisingly low.
    Of course, there’s a very big difference between E. 117th St. and plenty of places in Queens and Brooklyn, etc.

  • Anonymous

    @SB_Driver:disqus This list of world cities by population density lists New York at 114:
    http://www.citymayors.com/statistics/largest-cities-density-125.html
    That’s well below, say, Paris, at 69.
    I’ve seen other lists that put New York at other places, but all the ones that seem to be rigorously handled rank it surprisingly low.
    Of course, there’s a very big difference between E. 117th St. and plenty of places in Queens and Brooklyn, etc.

  • Joe R.

    @qrt145:disqus Don’t forget many European cities where built when the only non-human powered transport was horse-drawn wagons. As such, quite of few local streets can barely accommodate small motor vehicles. Forget about 18-wheelers on those streets. And they’re not about to knock down buildings to widen the streets for large trucks. Most of NYC for better or for worse has streets wide enough for any sized vehicle. This isn’t to say the current practice of allowing 18-wheelers access to any local street is a good idea, but the point is we deliver with 18-wheelers because we can. There are plenty of viable measures we can take to make sure operation of large vehicles on city streets doesn’t compromise pedestrian or cyclist safety.

    One thing which surprises me is why haven’t we thought about using the subway to make deliveries, especially to Manhattan? Put truck terminals near subway yards, install a spur or two so trains can pull up to be loaded. The subway has plenty of excess capacity off-hours. You can maybe take the express tracks out of passenger service for cargo delivery. At each stop, the cargo for the relevant destinations is loaded onto the subway platform where store employees bring it to its final destination, perhaps via hand trucks or pallet dolleys. You might need to put in ramps and/or elevators to facilitate this, but the concept could work if enough stores bought into it.

  • Joe R.

    @dporpentine:disqus You did notice that they’re including the entire NYC Metro area in those figures, not just the 5 boroughs? Actually, it looks like they did that for all of the cities. This list (by population) actually gives a more accurate picture:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_proper_by_population

    NYC proper has a population density of 10,519 persons/km². That’s actually number 13 on the list. If you count Manhattan only, then you have 26,668 persons/km². which puts it in 2nd place. Granted, I’m sure all of the other cities have much denser parts than average also, but my point is we’re not far from the top any way you look at it. I also believe few other cities have such a massive increase in population during the workday. This could easily double or triple the population density during business hours.

  • Eric McClure

    Redesign the freaking truck cabs. There’s no reason the engine has to sit in front of the driver.

    But that’s not really the issue here.  It’s that whether you’re killed in a crosswalk, or on the sidewalk, or on a bike, or in your bed, as long as the means of your demise is death by motor vehicle, it’s always an “accident” and nobody’s fault.  And that’s bullshit.

  • Driver

    No Brad, what I am saying is when you have nearly double the population in roughly a quarter of the space, freight logistics are going to be very different. That doesn’t even take into account the approximately 1.6 million commuters who enter Manhattan during the week.

    dporpentine, judging by the numbers used for NY on that list, they are gauging the NY metropolitan area rather than just NYC. 

    Sorry, I am not very familiar with the freight logistics in other countries, although I am very interested.  However I am familiar with freight logistics here in NYC, and you generally don’t see bread delivered out of 18 wheelers.  An exception would be when an institutions goods are delivered through one freight provider, like many fast food restaurants who get the majority of their goods in consolidated shipments, so the bread is delivered with the meat and cheese and cleaning products, on one large truck rather than many different trucks from different companies. 

    When companies are making deliveries that can weigh several thousand pounds per delivery, it makes sense in many ways to send larger trucks. 

  • Anonymous

    @2555783a6f62598b6aadd2d882a4830f:disqus @SB_Driver:disqus No, it doesn’t use the metropolitan area. See the definitions here:
     http://www.citymayors.com/statistics/largest-cities-2007.html

    It’s a much more rigorously handled list than that Wikipedia one. It’s apples to apples, across the board.

    If you want to make an argument that that’s a particularly dense block, fine. But people have a wildly inflated sense of New York’s density. New York is a *big* city. But large parts of it aren’t dense at all.

  • Anonymous

    @SB_Driver:disqus @2555783a6f62598b6aadd2d882a4830f:disqus Where “metropolitan area” is understood to be the Census term. They’re using something that’s modified so it can be broadly applied across the globe.

  • Driver

    population 17.8 million?  

  • Joe R.

    Actually, this map is probably more relevant than population densities for either the city proper or the metropolitan area:

    http://ajrae.staff.shef.ac.uk/img/nyc_popdens_2010.png

    Some parts of Eastern Queens aren’t much different from western Long Island. On the other hand, look at Manhattan. And incidentally, Corona, Queens has the highest population density in the entire city at 216,000 per square mile.

    http://undertheraedar.blogspot.com/2012/01/population-density-in-new-york-city.html

  • jwb

    In Europe you never see that s kind of truck. All trucks are “cab-over” which means the driver is right up at the very front of the vehicle. Much easier to drive, more compact and manueverable. Of course we don’t have them here in the USA because we are idiots. If you got to USA trucker forums (warning: brace yourself) you can find all types of disgusting remarks equating the cab-over to communism and homosexuality and so forth.

  • Joe R.

    @b4610b92810b55bfee0be46cc2c11586:disqus Yes, the types of trucks we use here seem to be dictated purely by what truckers think “looks good”. Never mind that cab-overs win in just about every practical area (and I happen to think they look nicer although I’m certain I’m in the minority). And no, I’m not communist or homosexual or any other things associated with cab-overs.

  • Anonymous

    @twitter-915537378:disqus Please contact me off-line to discuss an action along the lines you sketched in your first comment about this post. Planning is under way, and we would very much like your participation. — Charles / kea (at) igc.org

  • Anonymous

    @twitter-915537378:disqus Please contact me off-line to discuss an action along the lines you sketched in your first comment about this post. Planning is under way, and we would very much like your participation. — Charles / kea (at) igc.org

  • Ari asked:

    “I wonder what NYPD would say if/when someone runs over a police officer “by accident.””

    Kevin’s answer:
    When car drivers hit NYPD officers they get charged with Attempted Murder.  See, for example:

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/queens/driver_held_in_cop_hit_wQa7SXxh0owtsDYkixlMRL

    The NYPD attitude is simple: the law exists to protect them, not us peasants.  Try to kill a cop with a car and you go to jail.  Successfully kill one of us peasants with a car and it is “No criminality suspected.”

  • Just realized that if the truck was making the right turn onto first Avenue from E.117th, and the boy was crossing east to west on First Avenue, then the killing probably occurred exactly in the spot where a cement pedestrian refuge would have been installed had the First Avenue protected bike path and pedestrian safety improvements been installed according to the original schedule.

    Former Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and the “bikleashers” he was listening to back in 2010 when he covertly blocked these pedestrian safety improvements can pat themselves on the back for their role in this child’s needless death.

    And I can’t help but recall the outcry from East Harlem residents when the First Avenue project was begun at the southern rather than the northern terminus of First Avenue, and then cut off at 34th Street.  The NYC DoT rep explained at a CB 11 meeting, “First Avenue starts downtown, and runs uptown, so we started at First Avenue and Houston.”  The East Harlem residents (eerily reminiscent of residents of Africa and South America who question the placement of Europe at the “top” of the Eurocentric globe) explained that from *their* perspective, First Avenue starts in *their* neighborhood, uptown–yet public improvement projects always seem to begin downtown and never seem to make their way uptown.

    In the end, we won the extension of the First Avenue pedestrian improvements all the way to 125th street–DoT has said that it will be completed this year–but too late for this boy and his family.

  • Anonymous

    I read on The Gothamist that the truck wasn’t equipped with side guards which might have saved the kid. Sadly, their not required by law like they are in some parts of Europe. 

  • Harley

    Im sad for what happened! I heard about a bicycle accident that happened similar to this not too long ago also!

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

The Weekly Carnage

|
The Weekly Carnage is a Friday round-up of motor vehicle violence across the five boroughs and beyond. For more on the origins and purpose of this column, please read About the Weekly Carnage. Fatal Crashes (6 Killed This Week, 37 This Year; 0 Drivers Charged*) East Harlem: Amar Diarrassouba, 6, Killed By Truck Driver While Walking […]

On Traffic Justice, Stringer Lets Ray Kelly and Cy Vance Off the Hook

|
After the driver who killed six year-old Amar Diarrassouba on Thursday was let off with two summonses, for failure to yield to a pedestrian and not exercising due care, NYPD says its Accident Investigation Squad has concluded its investigation. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance refuses to comment. This afternoon, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer was joined by other […]