Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Cy Vance

Buta Lawsuit: No Charges or Summonses for Manhattan Hit-and-Run Death

1:48 PM EDT on October 23, 2012

A Department of Transportation truck driver who killed 21-year-old Manhattan pedestrian Roxana Sorina Buta was not issued a summons or charged for leaving the scene, and could be behind the wheel today, according to a lawsuit filed by the Buta family.

Cristina Oprea, Buta's mother, claims that Buta's death resulted from negligence on the part of the city, DOT, the Department of Design and Construction, Mack Trucks, and the driver, according to DNAinfo and the Post.

On May 24 at approximately 1:30 in the morning, Buta was walking across Broadway at 14th Street, in the crosswalk and with the light, when the driver of a dump truck made a right turn, ran her over and kept going, according to reports. In early June, it was reported that the killer had been identified. At that time, attorney Joseph Tacopina said police had confirmed that the driver worked for NYC DOT, and that no charges had been filed by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

The driver, who has yet to be named publicly, did not receive a traffic citation, according to the suit. From DNAinfo:

"Upon information and belief, the driver fled the scene and is free to continue driving New York City dump trucks recklessly, while Roxana is dead and her mother, Ms. Oprea, is simply devastated and suffers extreme emotional distress from the loss of her only child," the lawsuit states.

Additionally, the lawsuit claims that the driver must have known he had hit someone, "because the force of the impact would have obviously alerted him to this fact."

The driver was not charged in the crash and there is no criminality suspected, police said.

The District Attorney's office rejected multiple requests by Oprea and her lawyer, Joe Tacopina, to identify and prosecute the driver, according to the suit.

The crash that killed Buta bears resemblance to two other recent Manhattan fatalities that involved truck drivers, each of which was pursued by prosecutors, though neither driver was charged for causing a death. In 2011, Diego Tapia-Ulloa pled guilty to aggravated unlicensed operation and was fined $500 after he ran over Laurence Renard while turning a corner on the Upper East Side. Postal worker Ian Clement was cleared by a jury last month on charges of leaving the scene of the crash in Chelsea that took the life of cyclist Marilyn Dershowitz.

As we have noted previously, under New York State code, “I didn’t see her” is a credible defense. From nonsensical statutes to mercurial courts to reluctant prosecutors to indifferent police, each link in the traffic justice system is as weak as the next. In many cases, the only recourse for victims and their families is through civil action, which can afford some measure of justice but does little to keep killers off the streets.

"All [Oprea is] living for now is to make sure Roxy didn't die in vain -- to make sure the intersection is changed and made safer to make those responsible for her death be held accountable," said Tacopina, according to the Post.

Tacopina, citing the history of crashes with injuries at the intersection where Buta was killed, also says the city should have taken action to make the street safer.

Cy Vance's office does not comment on vehicular crimes. Streetsblog is awaiting confirmation from DOT that the driver who killed Buta is an agency employee, and if so, whether he in fact continues to drive DOT vehicles while on the job.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Analysis: ‘Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program’ is a Failure By All Measures

The Department of Transportation wants the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program to simply expire in part because it did not dramatically improve safety among these worst-of-the-worst drivers and led to a tiny number of vehicle seizures.

September 22, 2023

School Bus Driver Kills Cyclist in Boro Park, 24th Bike Death of 2023

Luis Perez-Ramirez, 44, was biking south on Fort Hamilton Parkway just before 3:15 p.m. when he was struck a by school bus driver making a right turn.

September 22, 2023

Adams Caves to Opposition, Abandons Bus Improvement Plan on Fordham Road in ‘Betrayal’

The capitulation on Fordham Road is the latest episode in which the mayor has delayed or watered down a transportation project in deference to powerful interests.

September 22, 2023

Friday’s Headlines: Yes He Said Yes He Will Yes Edition

That headline above is a reference to the last line of James Joyce's Ulysses, which we won't pretend to have read. But we have that ... and other news.

September 22, 2023

Madness: Port Authority Will Spend $8.3M to ‘Study’ Widening Outerbridge Crossing

Will this $8.3 million find out anything we don't know about induced demand?

September 22, 2023
See all posts