NYPD Blames Victim After Box Truck Driver Kills Cyclist Corbin Carr, 17, in Hell’s Kitchen

Given the department's track record of putting out misleading crash information, initial police accounts can't be trusted in the absence of video evidence or testimony from witnesses other than the driver.

10th Avenue at W. 55th Street. Photo: Google Maps
10th Avenue at W. 55th Street. Photo: Google Maps

The driver of a box truck killed a 17-year-old cyclist in Hell’s Kitchen last night. Though the Collision Investigation Squad was still working the case, NYPD told the press the crash was the cyclist’s fault — a claim that went unchallenged by print and TV outlets.

Police said Corbin Carr was riding north on 10th Avenue when he was hit by the driver, who was traveling west on W. 55th Street in an Isuzu truck, at approximately 12:10 a.m.

Carr, who lived on the Upper East Side, was pronounced dead at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

The driver was a 29-year-old man. NYPD withheld his name, which is standard procedure when a motorist kills someone and is not charged or ticketed.

But NYPD has no prohibition on prematurely dispensing information that points to the culpability of crash victims who can’t speak for themselves. Before the sun came up, media outlets were repeating the NYPD narrative that Carr ran a red light. The Daily News, AM New York, DNAinfo, and WNBC all led their coverage by citing the victim’s purported recklessness as the proximate cause of his own death.

NYPD’s default response to a cyclist death is to blame the victim, and the press generally parrots the claim without question.
NYPD’s default response to a cyclist death is to blame the victim, and the press generally parrots the claim without question.

We asked DCPI, the NYPD’s public information office, where the claim that Carr ran a red light originated. The spokesperson said DCPI did not know if video evidence or witness statements existed to support the department’s preliminary report, and that such information would not be known until CIS concluded its investigation.

While it’s certainly possible the driver had the right of way, NYPD has a long track record of portraying deceased victims as negligent before the facts are known.

Last year, police initially said Lauren Davis was biking against traffic on Classon Avenue when she was struck and killed — which was later proven false.

Earlier this month, NYPD said Dan Hanegby “swerved” on his bicycle into the path of a bus approaching from behind. Video evidence later showed that Hanegby did not behave unpredictably.

Just yesterday, NYPD announced that the driver who fatally struck Kelly Hurley in the First Avenue bike lane in April was arrested and charged for violating her right of way. Police initially said Hurley was responsible for the collision.

Hours later, NYPD blamed another cyclist victim. Despite the department’s clear credibility problem when it comes to traffic crashes, the press repeated that account uncritically. Given the history of police error in initial crash accounts, standards of evidence should be higher before publishing stories that immediately absolve the person behind the wheel.

  • Jesse

    Do the media ever publish corrections when evidence comes out that contradicts the initial police statement? In other words, do the reporters pay enough attention to the discrepancies to even have the context to assess the credibility of those statements? Or do those stories just vanish after the initial account?

  • Rarely. It took years for the Daily News to correct the story that Allie Liao “broke free” from her grandmother, even though video evidence showed that to not be the case. And even then it took a lot of hounding by advocates to get them to fix it. When they finally did, they just edited the story. No correction. The original version just fell down the memory hole.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/suv-kills-3-year-old-girl-queens-article-1.1478219

  • Brad Aaron

    In a word, No.

    And it’s not like they don’t know what they’re doing. Some of these reporters get called out on Twitter, and the companies they work for repeatedly do. Nothing changes. They simply don’t care if the stories are correct or not.

  • Blue Wall of Silence

    NYPD should STFU.

  • JK

    This is two pieces in one. The headline for other piece is: “Once Again, Reporters Blame Victim.” As you show here, and in many past articles, the NYPD’s initial “report” on fatal crashes is completely unreliable — but the news media chooses to ignore that. Maybe Streetsblog should start naming the reporters who keep doing this to let them know it’s irresponsible, unethical and painful to the families of the people killed. I doubt they ever consider the implications of what they are doing.

  • Brad Aaron

    We used to do that more than we do now. The thought was that moving responsibility upward was the more effective approach. But …

  • Jesse

    I know I’m being naïve but, how hard would it be to include a qualifying statement like “According to the police officer, who did not witness the crash… ” or “The only eyewitness account came from the driver” ? Just some unbiased way of orienting the reader to the “he said, she said” nature of these incidents.

    I mean look at the DNA article from this morning: the headline reads “Teen Cyclist Running Red Light Fatally Hit by Box Truck, NYPD Says”. On the one hand, “NYPD Says” could be read to mean “this is just the account of someone who did not actually witness the incident”. But a more casual reader might easily come away with “this is the official account of what actually happened as determined by a thorough investigation of the NYPD”. Only in the third paragraph do we get the very telling: “NYPD officials couldn’t say how they knew the boy rode through the red light.” If that’s the case then maybe that information shouldn’t be in the damn headline. It’s not a long article and clearly not very much actual reporting went into writing it. It wouldn’t take long to write it the correct way.

    I mean, is this more than laziness? Is it just clickbaiting?

  • Ken Dodd

    I don’t understand why they even have to put the red light part in the headline at all. What’s wrong with “Cyclist killed in collision with box truck”? You don’t tarnish your journalistic reputation with an NYPD statement, you don’t blame the cyclist and you don’t blame the truck driver. There’s something for everyone. You simply report that a fatal accident happened, and then flesh the headline out with the details in the actual article. DNAinfo is not good in this respect and I stopped reading it years ago.

  • Ken Dodd

    The Daily News is a parrot cage-lining sh*t rag.

  • Jesse

    I agree with you regarding the headline and I think your rewrite is very diplomatic. I think the red light bit should have been omitted from the headline entirely. I could see including that information in the body provided it was made clear that the NYPD made that statement without offering any reason to believe it was true.
    I actually do read DNAinfo but mostly for the comments. There’s something masochistically satisfying about reading the very predictable bike hatred. It’s like when you were a kid and had a loose tooth: it hurts when you wiggle it but you’re compelled to do so anyway.

  • .

    If only the NYPD was smart enough to even check their own cameras on 57th and 10th at 12:10. maybe then they’ll be able to see if it was a red.

  • Eddie

    To all the commentators on this thread: you are missing the essential point. A 17 year old boy died last night; he is the son of wonderful parents, he was a loved student, he was my daughter’s friend. he had just graduated from High School and was about to begin what is usually the best summer of anyone’s life. You are all hung up on reporters and the police. Wrong response. Let in what happened. Feel the sorrow of someone else’s pain. And if you cannot do that, then stay quiet. Your comments are not appropriate at this stage.

  • Frank Kotter

    Although I totally sympathize with the sentiment, the underlying assumption that the comments somehow disrespect him or his life are misplaces. Nearly all who follow this site are very much saddened by this event and endeavor to make sure it never happens again. Holding the media to account for parroting the NAPD (or any other PDs perpetually incorrect statements) is a part of accomplishing this.

    As it appears you knew this person and his family, please accept my sincerest condolences.

  • John

    My condolences to Corbin’s family — this is really tragic.

    There seems to be a commonality among this tragedy and when bus drivers killed two cyclists in Chelsea earlier this month. 55th street is not a truck route, so it seems likely that the truck driver was on an illegal route (especially at that time). The same appeared to be the case for the streets the buses in Chelsea were driving/turning on. I imagine that truck routes are set with our neighborboods’ safety in mind. So if the NYPD cares about our safety, maybe they should look to enforce truck routes more instead of focusing on ticketing cyclists after these incidents…

  • Eddie

    Dear Frank, thank you for your kind thoughts. My daughter ran track with Corbin. He would have been on his way to Harvard this fall. He leaves behind devastated parents, sister, girlfriend, as well as many, many friends. We pray for his family and their tremendous loss, and for Corbin, too.

  • Joe R.

    I can understand this from the point of view of those who have just started the grieving process. I lost my father 11 years ago and sometimes it still hurts. This was despite the fact he was 71½ and it was obvious his health was declining for some time. I can’t imagine the pain of losing someone suddenly who has their entire adult life ahead of them, especially someone who had as bright a future ahead of them as Corbin. That said, I think it will serve Corbin’s memory better if we get the real facts of what happened. The process for doing this unfortunately involves putting pressure on the NYPD and news media early and often. Far too many cyclists and pedestrians in this city have been prematurely blamed for their own deaths. This surely makes the grieving process for friends and family even harder.

    The bottom line is nobody here means any disrespect for him or those who knew him. We just want to get the NYPD to stop prematurely blaming the victim in cases like this.

  • Eddie

    Joe, your point is well taken, and I am also very sorry for your loss – regardless of how many years ago we have a loss, it is still a loss. Yours, Eddie

  • Reader

    Respecting this boy and his family means demanding that reporters get their stories about how he died correct. It also means holding the NYPD accountable for spreading lies about innocent teenagers.

    My condolences to his family. I want them to have peace and justice.

  • Joe R.

    Well, at least it’s suitable for that. The NY Post is so bad I wouldn’t even use it to line a cat box.

  • Wilfried84

    This website makes a point of naming, and when possible, telling the stories of, people who drivers kill, far more so than any other news site. They try to make them human, rather than statistics. Humanizing the victims, yes, to the end of making streets safer, is honoring the dead.

  • reasonableexplanation

    Wait, why are you guys complaining that literal tabloids are tabloids? That’s the whole point of those newspapers!

    NY Post for the right, Daily News for the left. They’re the dinosaur media version of clickbait.

  • Ken Dodd

    Here’s another case of the NYPD blaming a cyclist victim, 32 year old man killed in Brooklyn by a car driver who stayed on the scene for paramedics but took off before the cops got there. No doubt the NYPD’s insistence that the car “had the green light” was based on the car driver telling people at the scene, then the people at the scene telling the cops what he told them. “That’s good enough for us,” they figured. “Let’s release a statement which makes it look like we actually looked into it.”

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/bicyclist-32-dies-struck-suv-brooklyn-article-1.3293360

  • Angela Jenkins Askew

    Corbin Carr is my nephew, my sister’s youngest son. Our family is devastated and heartbroken by this tragedy. By the grace of God we will all get through this. Thank you all for your support.

  • anonymous

    Very sorry for your loss. FYI both street lights on 55 street and 10th avenue are

    not working and have not been working probably for months now. This corner where your nephew was killed is a very dark corner.

  • Angela Jenkins Askew

    Thank you. I was not aware of this.

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