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.
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.
The charges do not include a violation of Hayley and Diego’s Law, the state’s careless driving law for drivers who injure a pedestrian or cyclist. (The law is named after two pre-schoolers who were killed by a van on a Chinatown sidewalk after a driver had left it by the curb, idling and unattended.) NYPD rarely uses this law, claiming that it can only be enforced through a crash investigation or if an officer personally witnesses a violation. Efforts to close this loophole have stalled in the state legislature.
From 1997 to 2007, there were 10 serious pedestrian injuries at the intersection of Empire and Nostrand and five moderate injuries midblock where Charles was killed yesterday. In 2009, DOT said this section of Empire had a “high proportion of mid-block crashes” [PDF].
The street received a redesign focused on pedestrian safety in 2009 when DOT removed one car lane in each direction and added a striped median with concrete islands at intersections. At the request of Community Board 9, the redesign also included bike lanes, where Mayard was double-parked.
The 71st Precinct’s community council’s next meeting is scheduled for this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at MS 61, located at 400 Empire Boulevard — one block away from the crash site. Contact the precinct at (718) 735-0527 for more information. The area is on the border of two City Council districts, represented by Laurie Cumbo and Mathieu Eugene. Cumbo can be reached at (212) 788-7081, M35@council.nyc.gov or on Twitter and Facebook. Eugene can be reached at (718) 287-8762, email@example.com, or on Twitter and Facebook.