Driver Hits Multiple People on Times Square Sidewalk: 1 Dead, 22 Injured

Police took 26-year-old Bronx resident Richard Rojas in custody at the scene. Reports said Rojas has been arrested for drunk driving twice since 2008.

Image: CBS
Image: CBS

Late this morning, a motorist drove onto a Times Square sidewalk and hit multiple people.

Twenty-two people were injured and one was killed, Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill said at a press conference this afternoon.

The deceased victim was an 18-year-old woman. She was walking with her 13-year-old sister, who was also struck.

O’Neill said the suspect was driving a 2009 Honda southbound on Seventh Avenue at 11:55 a.m. before making a U-turn at 42nd Street. He then drove on the sidewalk from 42nd to 45th Street, hitting people along the way. The driver came to a stop after striking bollards at Broadway and W. 45th Street. He was tackled by a witness as he tried to run away from the scene.

Of the 22 injured, four victims were transported to hospitals in critical condition. They were not considered “likely to die.” Three were in serious condition.

Police took Richard Rojas, 26, in custody at the scene. NY1 reported that Rojas, a Bronx resident, was arrested for drunk driving in Queens in 2008, and again in Manhattan in 2015. It is unknown whether Rojas has a valid drivers license. During the press conference, O’Neill said Rojas was being tested for impairment and questioned by police.

News of the crash appeared on Twitter at around noon. Photos showed the smoking car mounted on bollards at Broadway and W. 45th Street.

Journalist David Shuster tweeted that buildings in the area were on lockdown, but CBS reported not long after the crash that NYPD did not suspect a terror attack. Video posted on Instagram and later removed showed police leading a man in handcuffs to an NYPD vehicle.

Governor Cuomo was on the scene about a half-hour after the crash.

Pedestrian injuries dropped 40 percent after DOT redesigned Times Square under former mayor Michael Bloomberg. Without bollards and other measures to make walking safer, it appears this crash could have been worse.

As horrific as today’s crash was, it is not unusual for drivers to maim and kill people on NYC sidewalks. Before today, NYC drivers had killed no fewer than 49 people on sidewalks and in buildings since 2012, according to crash data tracked by Streetsblog.

[Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include more details about the crash.]

  • Vooch

    wrong

    you obviously do not know the law

  • Kevin Love

    All hail the all-powerful bike lobby!

  • Michel S

    Public policy decisions should be based on statistics and recurring evidence. Enough people have died. Drivers who demonstrate their inability to behave responsibly behind the wheel of a car by operating a vehicle while intoxicated have no right to access nor enjoy public infrastructure; they have failed to uphold their end of the bargain. Irresponsible drivers are responsible for untold injury and death on an annual basis, but because so much of our country is dependent on cars for transportation we bend over backwards to give people ‘just one more chance’. I’m done with the apologism. Enough people have died.

  • Michel S

    True. And if reports are to be believed, the driver in question here was on a suspended licence already. The harder truth to face is that it is too easy for irresponsible people to get behind the wheel of a car, and I’m not sure what to do about that.

  • RichLL

    So your final position is that you go to jail for speeding?

    LOL

  • RichLL

    Where a jaywalker jumps out right in front of you?

    Where you have a heart attack while driving?

    Where there is a brake failure?

    Where another driver or road user hits you, and dies?

    How many examples would you like?

  • Vooch

    Certainly negligent homicide isn’t the appropriate charge in every case where a driver kills someone.

    It’s the minimum charge.

  • RichLL

    If you are driving under the limit and paying full attention, and then some idiot leaps out right in front of you, then no court in the land would find you guilty of anything.

    You might wish it was different, but it isn’t. Context matters.

  • RichLL

    That is not how the law works. The law takes into account the details. You don’t care about that, and that is an extremist position with little popular support.

  • Vooch

    Then the answer is expand pedestrian space until humans are safe from killer drivers.

    As a result of this atrocity, Times square pedestrian space should be further expanded.

    Reallocating a few motor lanes to human use is a perfectly sensible and prudent response to this carnage.

  • Vooch

    if you are driving the appropriate safe speed EVEN if a idiot jumps out in front of you – you have enough time to stop

  • Vooch

    1) if you kill someone you are driving too fast. In NYC, the default speed limit is 25 MPH.

    2) Heart Attack ? Was the killer taking his heart medication ? Did he know he was at risk for heart attack ? This is a red herring that is irrelevant because it never happens.

    3) Brake Failure ? You suggest the driver refused to maintain his hulking death machine and still operated it in excess of safe speeds ? Sound like willful manslaughter instead of negligent homicide

    4) Another drivers crashes into you and dies ? Hilarious – obviously both drivers charged with negligent homicide. Guilt appropriated according to extent of responsibility for crash.

    So far you are batting 000

    try again

  • Vooch

    So now you are arguing because the NYPD and DAs have a suburban windshield perspective and refuse to carry out the law; it’s okay ?

  • RichLL

    Out of curiosity, do you have any idea how out of whack your views are with the general population, the voters and the way the law works?

    Your logic seems to be that the driver is at fault because, if he had not been there, the collision would not have happened.

  • RichLL

    The speed at which you can stop if an idiot jumps out right in front of you is probably less than 5 mph.

  • RichLL

    No, I am suggesting that the voters do not support your extreme position, which is why the law and those who enforce it do not agree with you either

  • RichLL

    It’s about balance, not winner takes all. What is your plan for over-riding the voters and imposing your own personal preferences?

  • Vooch

    then that’s the only safe speed whenever idiots are about

  • Vooch

    agreed – currently the tiny minority of new yorkers who drive occupy 85% of street space.

    A balance would be to allocate 25% of street spaces to drivers and 75% to humans

  • RichLL

    If everyone drove at 5 mph, there would be fewer deaths, but the economy would also suffer, meaning higher prices for the voters. That’s a big part of why your idea has little traction. Better think up a backup plan.

  • Vooch

    you are making the entirely false equation

    VMT = economic activity

  • RichLL

    If it takes a vehicle 600 hours to get from coast to coast because of a 5 mph speed limit, then you can bet that stuff would cost more. Heck, you could almost walk coast to coast in the same time.

  • Vooch

    driving safe speeds is no joke

    BTW – railroads don’t kill humans and have a 50% market share of freight in the US. Why the obsession with motor cars to the exclusion of any other mode ? why do you believe motor cars deserve more than 85% of streetsosce ?

  • RichLL

    I don’t know. Why don’t you ask the voters? They are the ones who decide these things.

  • Vooch

    no – if a driver kills someone in NYC where the default speed limit is 25MPH then it’s well
    within the law to charge him automatically with negligent homicide

  • JudenChino

    The notion that our car-centric streets represent the will of the voters is one hell of a stinking hot take, in the city with the best mass transit system in the US and also the one with the lowest household car ownership percentage (majority of households in NYC, don’t own a car).

    Car owners tend to be more affluent. And our pols themselves tend to suffer from the windshield perspective and most of the media itself also suffers from such a perspective.

  • RichLL

    Anything is possible but that typically is not the way it happens

  • RichLL

    Either the voters want it this way OR the voters don’t care enough to vote in a different way that would change things. Which?

  • Vooch

    at 25 MPH a driver crashing into a pedestrian phase a 90% chance of not killing

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Pretty much everybody in California blocked this moron on Disqus last year. I can tell you that ‘This user is blocked’ is my favorite comment on Streetsblog.

  • com63

    That was my point. Without the bollards, this guy could have driven through the plaza and injured or killed many more.

    The more I read about this, the more it seems as if it was intentional. Driving on the sidewalk for four blocks is not something I would expect from a DWI.

  • Ken Dodd

    I would quite happily fire an employee for drunk driving, on the basis that it shows a basic disregard for human life as well as horrible judgment – two qualities I can do without in an employee.

  • Flubert

    If they worked for you as a driver, you could legally do that.

  • HamTech87

    Hold the owners of the motor vehicles equally responsible?

  • Joe R.

    Fine, if we use those distinctions then punishment should be as follows for each case:

    1) At least life imprisonment without parole, preferably the death penalty.

    2) Lifetime revocation of driving privileges, forfeiture of the vehicle, and possibly civil penalties.

    3) The person who was the cause of the crash gets punished, you don’t.

    I wholeheartedly agree not every driver involved in a fatal wreck was doing something wrong. However, in most cases at least one of the parties involved was at fault. In rare cases there is mechanical failure not caused by poor vehicle maintenance. Those are probably the only cases where none of the drivers are to blame.

  • Joe R.

    Lifetime revocation of driving privileges for a drunk or drugged driver is absolutely appropriate regardless of age. It demonstrates you have no respect for the responsibility associated with operating heavy machinery in a public space. In many other professions where people must be licensed to operate heavy machinery being drunk or drugged results in their never being able to operate that machinery ever again. Locomotive engineers are never allowed to operate a train ever again even if they’re caught drunk just once. And some states, like New Jersey, won’t let you drive a train if you have a DUI conviction for driving a motor vehicle: http://www.nj.com/traffic/index.ssf/2016/08/new_law_bans_nj_transit_engineers_with_duis_from_o.html

    Anyway, given these standards I fail to see why we should make an exception for motor vehicles. Drive drunk even once, you lose your driving privileges forever. And anyone caught driving unlicensed should have their vehicle forfeited and auctioned off by the state. Most people can’t keep buying another car every time they get caught driving unlicensed.

  • Joe R.

    No, we would just start shipping things on modes which can safely run at high speeds without killing people. Trains come to mind. The only people trains generally kill are those who trespass on railroad tracks.

  • zucho drig

    500 killed every year on rail tracks is, of course, nothing compared to 6,000 killed on roads, but even then:
    “Passenger cars and light trucks (vans, pickups, and sport utility vehicles) accounted for 46.1% and 39.1%, respectively, of the 4875 (pedestrian) deaths, with the remainder split among motorcycles, buses, and heavy trucks.”
    Even if the whole remainder of 15% (~750) is attributed to heavy trucks competing with railroads on long distances, it doesn’t look that good for railroads.

  • Joe R.

    Most of those 500 killed on railroad tracks are in motor vehicles whose drivers decided to ignore crossing gates. Those deaths should be attributed to motor vehicles, not trains. 100% of pedestrians killed on railroad tracks were trespassing. Again, not the railroad’s fault.

    This is quite different than motor vehicles which regularly leave roads and kill people who are in areas where motor vehicles aren’t even supposed to be, like sidewalks.

  • disqus_1pvtRUVrlr

    So you are saying that is the only safe speed when you are about? Because obviously, you are an idiot. Your opinions don’t square with facts. An impact at 25 can result in death depending upon a lot of factors (age/health of ped, vehicle mass and height, dynamic of crash (over the hood or under the vehicle), etc.

    And if someone steps in front of a vehicle a driver must see, perceive, react, and the vehicle itself must physically stop. Learn a bit about crashes, factors, and dynamics before you spout stupid nonsense.

    The notion that vehicles would be governed at a fast walking speed is patently absurd.

  • Greg

    It’s a huge problem. But I’m not sure proactively destroying the lives of people who struggle with alcohol will help them or society in aggregate. In fact, putting alcoholics in jail is probably the worst thing you could do for everyone.

  • Vooch

    A human hit at 25 by a driver has a 90% chance of surviving – fact

    It’s the default speed limit in NYC for a reason.

    A driver saying ‘he jumped in front of my car and I didn’t have time to react and I killed him’ is a admission of guilt.

    because
    1) driver admits he wasn’t aware of his surroundings because otherwise he would have seen the human getting ready to jump

    2) Driver was exceeding speed limit by a lot, because if driver was driving 25 and hit brakes before impact he would have hit victim at less than 20 MpH which is speed where victim had a 99% chance of living.

    3) Driver therefore also admits he didn’t use brakes until after impact. This admission means he wasn’t looking forward.

    Negligent Homicide at a minimum

  • zucho drig

    https://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_02_01.html
    No. In 2016: 500 trespassers (probably all are pedestrians), 260 on grade crossing (half (129) are drivers/passengers).
    Should we promote the mode of transportation based on if we can put the blame on the other party? Let’s have more trains, more killed trespassers, but train is good, because it has right of way.

  • Joe R.

    Well, explain to me exactly what we should do here. The fact is these people are killed because they’re either trespassing or ignoring the crossing gates. This is NOT the railroad’s fault. In fact, in most cases the railroad was there first. If people want to settle around railroad tracks, then they should pay for any needed overpasses or underpasses which might prevent people from getting killed. Instead, they try to get the railroad to pay for it, even though it’s not the railroad’s problem if people decide to build around railroad tracks which have existed for decades. End result is grade crossings where people get killed because they refuse to follow the rules.

    Yes, we should absolutely promote railroads over trucks. Remember most of the people trucks kill were crossing the street legally. The truck driver failed to yield to them, or just didn’t see them. Nearly 100% of those killed by trains were killed through their own fault. I don’t know about you but I don’t get all that upset if people die because they put themselves in harm’s way. I do however get upset when people come to harm through no fault of their own. Look at it this way. If we continue to use trucks they will continue to kills hundreds or thousands every year. If we use trains more, while combining this with a series of public service messages to get people to stay off railroad tracks, a lot fewer people will die than if we use trucks. Also, more trains means people will feel less safe walking on railroad tracks, so they’ll do so less often. That’s good. We don’t want people walking on railroad tracks.

    And right, trains have the right-of-way. Physics dictates this. It takes a mile or more to stop a freight train at speed. There’s no way a train can yield right-of-way to motor vehicles or pedestrians.

  • scoot777

    We need long jail terms for anyone caught driving without a license. You have to make people afraid of taking that risk. (Also needed: give people better ped/bike/transit alternatives than presently exist.)

  • Ken Dodd

    I don’t care how it affects them – the only important thing is getting them off the streets where they can’t be a danger to innocent pedestrians and road users.

  • Ken Dodd

    You’d be surprised how hard it is to fire someone “cleanly” (i.e. so they can’t claim unemployment) in this city. Not even gross negligence is acceptable. Same with hiring – the bozos who run this city have recently made it law that you’re not allowed to inquire as to someone’s criminal history before you offer them the job, and even then it’s rare that they would consider a criminal history valid grounds to withdraw a job offer.

  • Greg

    You don’t sound like someone who’s dealt with sickness and addiction.

    You’re making the “criminalize addiction” argument, which is just a flimsy argument. I know you mean well, but you’re making an argument that will destroy more lives, corrupt society, and not even lower the number of incidents of vehicles harming people.

    Let me be clear on my critique of your argument, just so we know precisely what we’re arguing over: I 100% agree with you in making a DUI an instantly jailable offense. I’d also support revoking driving privileges for DUI’ers, perhaps permanently. I’m specifically arguing against the excessive prison sentence. That will only lead people who need help down downward spirals that will unnecessary destroy them and make things even worse when they finally get out on the streets again and get back into that same car you’re trying to stop them from getting into and making even worse damage.

    The only way to avoid that through a “criminalize addiction” argument is to put them in jail for life. I sincerely hope you have more humanity than that.

  • Ken Dodd

    My only motive in keeping these people off the streets is so that they have less chance to drink and drive. I wonder how many of these habitual DUI perpetrators are genuinely addicts with mental problems, or how many of them are just assholes who drink no more than anyone else but always drive when they do. As for people with actual addiction problems being shown sympathy and leniency, would you apply the same argument to alcoholics who sexually abuse or rape women when they get drunk?

  • Yep @RichLL is additionally banned from many S.F. blogs and news sites, as are several of his other sockpuppet accounts.