Just after 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, 5-year-old Chunli Mendoza was walking to P.S. 228 with her mother. They were midway across Northern Boulevard at 92nd Street, just a block away from the school, when they were struck by an off-duty NYPD officer. Chunli was seriously injured and remains at Elmhurst Hospital after undergoing surgery on her leg. Her mother, hospitalized for a foot fracture, was released on Thursday.
NYPD says the mother and daughter were struck by an off-duty officer driving a white pickup truck. The driver has not been charged and no summonses were issued. “We hope the girl makes a full recovery,” an anonymous police official told DNAinfo. “Unfortunately it was a tragic traffic accident.”
Witnesses offered their version of events to reporters yesterday at a rally held by Make Queens Safer at the intersection.
Maria Jose Penaherrera, 37, has a daughter in the first grade at PS 228. She was driving to school that morning and was three cars back from the intersection when the crash occurred. While she did not see a white pickup truck, she does remember a black sedan making a U-turn in the intersection before traffic inched forward and she could see a girl down in the street.
“I knew it was a girl from PS 228 because of the uniform,” she said.
A family friend who works nearby and wished to remain anonymous ran to the scene minutes after the crash happened and remembers seeing both a black sedan and the white pickup in the middle of the street after the crash. “Mommy was hysterical, screaming for help. She was screaming, ‘My daughter, my daughter, my daughter,'” she said.
Last week, Community Board 3 voted to support a plan for nine additional concrete pedestrian refuge islands on Northern Boulevard, but 92nd Street was not included in the proposal. The intersection with 93rd Street, one block to the east, already has a concrete island.
Currently, there is a crossing guard stationed two blocks east of where Mendoza was struck, at Junction Boulevard, where 3-year-old Olvin Jahir Figueroa was killed by a drunk driver last October. In the wake of this week’s crash, area residents and Make Queens Safer are asking for more crossing guards, especially at the intersection of 93rd Street and Northern Boulevard, adjacent to PS 228 and one block east of where Mendoza was struck.
While they are pleading for more crossing guards from the precinct, residents also say police officers in the area often drive recklessly and park on the sidewalk. “Definitely it’s been a concern,” the family friend said. “Police officers, they should be the ones guarding us all the time.”
“We do not want to get into a fight with the precinct, because we need crossing guards. And these guys have been very supportive with the initiative of Make Queens Safer,” Penaherrera said. “Nobody wants to hit a girl. I’m sure this guy is mortified, the person who did this.”