Hit-and-Run Dollar Van Driver Strikes Couple, Kills Man on Flatbush Avenue

Angel and Samantha Sagardia were struck by a commuter van while attempting to cross the wide expanse of Flatbush Avenue outside Kings Plaza Mall. Photo: Google Maps
A dollar van driver struck Angel and Samantha Sagardia, killing Angel, on this wide expanse of Flatbush Avenue outside Kings Plaza Shopping Center before fleeing. Photo: Google Maps

Drivers killed two pedestrians in separate crashes in Queens and Brooklyn on Friday and Saturday. In one case, police are still looking for the driver of a minibus who fled the scene after striking a couple, killing a man and critically injuring his wife.

[Update: The driver in this crash was identified as Jameson Golding. Golding was charged with two counts of felony leaving the scene and aggravated unlicensed operation, according to court records.]

At about 5:00 p.m. Friday afternoon, 47-year-old Angel Sagardia and his wife Samantha Sagardia, 50, were crossing Flatbush Avenue from west to east between Avenue U and Avenue V, near the Kings Plaza Shopping Center, when the driver of a Ford Omnibus dollar van struck them both.

Police believe an unlicensed man was driving the illegal commuter van above when he struck Angel and Samantha Sagardia. Photo: PIX
Police believe an unlicensed driver was behind the wheel of this minibus when he struck the Sagardias. Photo: WPIX

The couple was rushed to Kings County Hospital, where Angel passed away from severe head trauma. Samantha remains in critical condition.

Police located the vehicle on Saturday in East Flatbush near the corner of Rogers Avenue and Tilden Avenue, but the motorist — who WPIX reports is believed to be an unlicensed Haitian immigrant who was driving the dollar van illegally — remains at large. Witnesses told WCBS that the driver was speeding and did not stop after he struck the Sagardias, and motorists often drive above the speed limit on this section of Flatbush. NYPD says an investigation is ongoing.

In 2015, five pedestrians were injured on Flatbush Avenue at the intersections with Avenues U and V, according to Vision Zero View. Because it is such a dangerous location for pedestrians, Flatbush Avenue is a priority corridor and the crossing with Avenue U is a priority intersection in DOT’s Brooklyn Pedestrian Safety Acton Plan [PDF].

Friday’s fatal crash occurred in the 63rd Precinct, led by Captain Thomas W. Burke, which has given out 242 tickets for speeding through so far this year the end of July, according to NYPD data. The 63rd Precinct Community Council meets on the fourth Wednesday of every month at 8 p.m. in the Kings Plaza Mall Community Room.

It was the second fatal hit-and-run this year involving a commuter van, according to data compiled by Streetsblog, after 16-year-old Alexa Smith was killed in Rosedale in February.

Council Member Alan Maisel, who represents the area where the Sagardias were struck, said that illegal dollar vans have been “causing havoc” in his district for at least 15 years. “They speed, they throw trash out the window, they stop wherever they want to stop, block driveways, they urinate because they have no bathrooms that are accessible to them. They’re a menace,” he told Streetsblog this afternoon. “It’s a question of having the Taxi and Limousine Commission enforce the laws and, for whatever reason, the last two administrations have not taken [illegal dollar vans] as seriously as they should.”

A left-turning driver struck and killed 50-year-old Martin Smith at the intersection above. Photo: Google Maps
A left-turning driver, whose path is shown in red, struck and killed 50-year-old Martin Smith, whose path is shown in white, on Springfield Boulevard where it intersects Murdock Avenue. Photo: Google Maps

In Queens Village, a turning SUV driver struck and killed 50-year-old Martin Smith as he crossed Springfield Boulevard at Murdock Avenue at approximately 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

Smith was crossing from east to west “outside the marked crosswalk,” according to NYPD, when the driver behind the wheel of a 2014 Kia Sorento turned left from eastbound Murdock Avenue to northbound Springfield Boulevard and struck him. The driver stayed on the scene and no arrests have been made. NYPD says the investigation is ongoing.

Between 2013 and 2015, six pedestrians and one cyclist were injured at the intersection where Smith was killed, according to Vision Zero View. Left turns like the one that killed Smith are especially deadly, according to an analysis earlier this month from NYC DOT.

The crash occurred in the 105th Precinct, led by Commanding Officer Inspector Jeffrey Schiff, and in the City Council district represented by I. Daneek Miller. Through the end of July, officers of the 105th Precinct had issued 119 summonses this year for failure to yield to a pedestrian, according to NYPD data.

To voice your concerns about about traffic safety in the neighborhood to the 105th Precinct, attend its next community council meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, September 28th at 8 p.m. in the precinct house, located at 92-08 222nd Street.

  • van_vlissingen

    I wonder when they say a dead pedestrian was crossing “outside of the marked crosswalk” if what they really mean is that they found the dead body outside of the marked crosswalk.

  • Anijake

    In the Brooklyn, Kings Plaza hit and run, I was there. They were in the middle of the block. There really needs to be a fence on the median to prevent people from crossing like that.

  • Simon Phearson

    Then they’d just climb over the fence.

  • street_user

    Commuter vans driving less than 45 mph would help too. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a dollar van not speeding like a maniac.

  • These dollar vans make my blood boil. The strategy of tolerating them has been an utter failure. These companies employ unlicenced and untrained drivers and use shoddy and poorly-maintained vehicles.

    Furthermore, they are committing theft against the public sector. With every fare they collect they are diverting what would be public funds into their own pockets.

    Finally, the argument that dollar vans serve undeserved areas is wrongheaded and self-fulfilling. They just suppress numbers on legitimate bus lines, data which would provide the basis for increasing service or creating new lines.

    Dollar vans are deathtraps driven by dangerous incompetents who are working for theiving pirates. It’s good to see a City Council member call them out for the menace that they sre. We need to get rid of them at once.

  • van_vlissingen

    Why can’t the property (in this case the vans) of a business that uses an unlicensed driver be forfeited?

  • Vooch

    hey provide a service much needed, if the government service didn’t suck, dollar vans wouldn’t exist.

  • kevd

    the idea that all transportation dollar are by right, the MTA’s is a huge SOURCE of the problems we have.
    If the B41 didn’t suck, these dollar vans would’t exist.
    No one WANTS to by two fares, but they do so, because of the MTA buses are so bad.

  • kevd

    oh, you haven’t watched many dollar vans then!
    Some are a menace, some are not.
    Enforcement of the most basic driving laws would clear this all up in a week or two, get many bad actors off the roads and make things much better for licensed and insured dollar vans.
    But, basic traffic enforcement is apparently beneath the NYPD.

  • kevd

    if dollar vans ceased to exist tomorrow, 10s of thousands of people wouldn’t get to work and the MTA would not lift a finger – because the ridership doesn’t matter to them.

  • AMH

    There really need to be safe crosswalks, or at least crosswalks. That road is a deathtrap.

  • @kevdflb:disqus and @alexandervucelic:disqus:

    For many decades, there were private operators of buses in Queens. The Green, Triboro, Queens Surface, and Steinway companies lasted well into the first decade of the 21st Century. While these companies were private, they were at least somewhat competently run, even if their vehicles seemed to be a generation behind the buses run by the MTA. And, crucially, their drivers were actual competent professionals.

    But after we the public finally took over the lines that the private companies had run, services improved. When Green Bus ran the the Q11 and the Q53, the Q53 was an express that completely bypassed Woodhaven, and the Q11 experienced crush loads even on weekends. After the public reclamation, the Q53 became a limited and began serving the important stops at Metropolitan, Myrtle, Jamaica, and Liberty Avenues, thereby relieving the pressure on the Q11. The change proved so popular that bus ridership surged, and eventually the Q21 local and Q52 limited were added to Woodhaven Boulevard.

    This happened on Woodhaven Boulevard, and it can happen elsewhere. But if we had had some cheesy pirates running their rickety deathtrap vans up and down Woodhaven Boulevard endangering both their passengers and all other street users, these improvements never would have been implemented. The ridership numbers on the Q11 would have been depressed, and could not have justified the additions of the Q53, Q21, and Q52.

    Likewise, improvements surely won’t come to Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn or to Merrick Boulevard in Queens as long as people continue to patronise the dollar vans. It’s a bit facile to say that the dollar vans wouldn’t exist if the B41 or the Q5 didn’t suck, when the truth is that the B41 and the Q5 probably wouldn’t suck if the dollar vans didn’t exist. As in Woodhaven, those areas would likely have received significantly improved service and perhaps even additional routes.

    The MTA is our public agency that is charged with meeting the needs of public transit. And, by and large, it does a good job. But we need to give this agency the tools that it needs in order to fulfill its function. When we undercut it by allowing private entities both to siphon off fare dollars and to warp the ridership statistics that are used for planning, we are only hurting ourselves. To then complain that the MTA’s service sucks becomes something that would resemble a comedy if it weren’t being said seriously.

  • Anijake

    They were almost 50, I doubt they would have climbed the fence.

  • Anijake

    Like I said either a fence on the median or a mid block traffic light and crosswalk would help.

  • No there needs to be a pedestrian crossing installed with a blinking yellow light.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    They’re also filling a niche that the MTA may simply not be able to provide cost effectively.

  • The dollar vans are completely unregulated. They should come under the taxi limousine rules. This is a no brainier.
    When regulated as they are on the west side because of intercity regulation, DOT ignores their driving and vehicle safety records as a criteria: two companies were in the worst 10 percentile in the country but they still got a license.

  • On Murdock avenue, this is obviously where a split phase or split LPI would have saved a life . And yet DOT has decided that these treatments are not warranted . .

  • Joe R.

    The open question though is can the MTA deal with the logistics of operating smaller than bus-sized vehicles? It seems to me the problem here is they don’t get high enough load factors on full-size buses unless they operate them very infrequently. That in term drives down ridership given that frequency of service is second only to speed for transit riders. The obviously alternative is to operate smaller vehicles in more frequent service. The problem is most of the costs of operating a bus is for the driver. Can the MTA justify paying three times as many drivers when chances are good they won’t be getting any more money from most of the increased ridership (because most would be getting a free bus-subway transfer)?

    No easy answers here. I should mention 20 years ago we had large numbers of cars bringing people to/from subway stations in my area. Since people were paying two fares at the time, they didn’t balk at giving the second fare to a private individual. Getting rid of the two-fare zones pretty much stopped this cold. You don’t even see the cars late nights when bus service is infrequent because few people will pay an extra fare just to get home a few minutes sooner.

  • kevd

    “then these companies ought to be held to some reasonable standards”
    I don’t remember saying that they should not be held to any standards.
    That, my friend – is what we call a straw man.
    I’m for standards and enforcement by when you say “cheesy pirates running their rickety deathtrap vans” I know you aren’t actually interested in a reasonable discussion. I’ve been in rickety, poorly driven vans. I’ve been in safe, insured, safely and professionally driven vans. The goal should be promoting the later and punishing the former.
    Unless you simply believe that the state should have a monopoly on all intra-urban transportation dollars. In that case, why not take over all yellow cabs and simply make cabbies employees of the TLC?

  • kevd

    Or fined or imprisoned or etc.
    The state has many ways to compel compliance with all sorts of safety regulations.
    The main problem is that the NYPD is completely disinterested to pursuing any of those routes. (until someone gets killed and there is a ticket blitz for a week or two).

  • * I have on many occasions have been stuck on buses in snarled traffic, including on the B41. Solutions exists, including something on the SBS-BRT spectrum, and also eliminating parking. But all of these would run into such fierce opposition from entrenched retrograde interests (and their media mouthpieces) that they are deemed political nonstarters.

    * Fine, not every single private van is a rickety deathtrap driven by an unlicenced incompetent maniac. Only the overwhelming majority are — which is more than enough to designate this as an identifying characteristic of the form. Moreover, private companies have the incentive to cut corners on maintenence and on salaries, especially when regulation is so lax; therefore allowing private entities to do this function virtually guarantees that we’re going to get this unpleasant result.

    * While it is impossible to prove a negative, it nevertheless stands to reason that the lack of private vans running up and down Woodhaven Boulevard prevented the diversion of passengers from the legitimate buses, and so helped to facilitate the expansion of bus service there. If it can happen on Woodhaven Boulevard, it can happen in other places. Can we say for sure that the same sort of success can be achieved on Flatbush Avenue if we got rid of the pirates? No, we cannot. But to assert this possibility is certainly not absurd on its face. It is realistic; and it is a step worth taking.

    * If using vans rather than full-size buses makes sense, then by all means let’s go for it. Have the MTA start a van division, so that the vehicles can be reliably kept in good repair, and so that they can be operated by quality professionals.

    * Mass transit (by whatever mode) is by its nature a public function, one that we must provide for ourselves. So I do indeed say that we the people, by the mechanism of a public agency, should be the exclusive provider of mass transit within our city. I am definitely in favour of making cabbies public employees, even if I would prefer that they be employees of the MTA. (In a sane world, even bike share would be a public function run by our transit agency. But, of course, the only way that it could have been established in our twisted world is for it to not have been connected to any public agency.)

    * If the public agency that we have set up to organise and arrange mass transit (or, indeed, to perform any other function) is failing, the solution is not to abandon a vital public function to private parties. The solution is to fix the public agency or perhaps even to set up a new one.

  • t

    Its always about being black. poo hoo.

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