A man who says he saw the Tuesday crash that killed Marlene Baharlias echoes the story told by others: The driver backed into the senior on a Sheepshead Bay sidewalk. The witness believes a security camera in his building recorded the crash, but NYPD does not share details of crash investigations unless compelled by freedom of information requests.
Witnesses told Brooklyn Daily and News 12 that Baharlias, 77, and her husband were walking together near 2060 E. 19th Street when a woman driving a Mercedes SUV, reportedly attempting to park, accelerated in reverse, jumped the curb and struck her.
Colin Edwards sent us a corroborating account via email:
I was at my living room in the building when I heard the commotion. I looked from my window and saw the SUV backing very fast in reverse on the sidewalk. At this point the woman (Mrs. Baharlias) was already ran over by the car and laying in between the wheelbase of the car. Then the driver, in her panic, put the car in drive and ran the victim [over] a second time, while the husband and two other guys were yelling at her to stop.
Baharlias was pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital. No charges were immediately filed against the driver.
“It was absolutely criminal the speed and reckless manner [with] which the SUV driver reversed,” Edwards said. “She completely lost control over the car.”
As we wrote yesterday, anonymous NYPD sources told the Post Baharlias was jaywalking. The Post reported the claim without question. Many pedestrians and cyclists killed by motorists in recent years were initially blamed by NYPD and the press and were vindicated later, after the media lost interest in their stories.
Edwards said a security camera in his building probably recorded the crash, but NYPD makes it exceedingly difficult to determine if investigators tried to collect video evidence. As Streetsblog has reported for years, NYPD crash investigations are kept hidden, even from victims’ loved ones. WNYC reported today that the families of Alison Liao and Sammy Cohen Eckstein, children killed by motorists within the last five months, were forced to file freedom of information requests to get crash reports from NYPD.
Even after NYPD handed over a report, Liao’s parents had to file a second FOIL request to get additional evidence, including video of the crash. Contrary to an early NYPD claim that Allison broke away from her grandmother before she was hit, the video showed the motorist ran into both of them as they held hands in a Queens crosswalk.
Sammy was struck by the driver of a van on Prospect Park West last October. His parents are still trying to wrest information from NYPD. “We have a friend who’s a lawyer who reached out on our behalf,” said Sammy’s mother, Amy Cohen. “He’s had to file a FOIL request and an order to show cause. We’re still waiting to find out exactly what happened.”
“These reports contain a wealth of data that would enable the transportation department, the NYPD, city planners, community groups to design and create safer streets and a safer culture for pedestrians and cyclists and drivers,” said Charles Komanoff, a statistician and longtime street safety advocate.
A spokesperson told WNYC that Mayor de Blasio “is thinking about ‘making more information available to the public.'”
Unless the administration makes these investigations more transparent, the public may never know what police discovered about Tuesday’s crash.