CIS Investigating Crash That Maimed Three Kids; So Far, Richard Brown Is Not

NYPD says the Collision Investigation Squad is investigating the Thursday curb-jump crash that injured five children in Maspeth, but District Attorney Richard Brown’s office says no subpoenas for cell phone records or EDR data have been issued, as police have determined there is “no criminality.” At least three of the victims remain in the hospital with serious injuries.

At 7:49 a.m. yesterday, a driver identified by the Daily News and the Post as Francis-Aung Lu drove a Honda SUV onto the sidewalk at Grand Avenue and 71st Street, near Frank Sansivieri Intermediate School, striking five kids outside a corner deli. Lu’s vehicle had to be lifted off two girls.

Media reports said Lu was dropping off his child and attempting to park. Reports said police did not expect to file charges, but NYPD told us this morning that, while Lu has not been charged or summonsed, the case is still open, and is in the hands of CIS.

This contradicts information from Brown’s office. When Streetsblog asked, via email, if the DA would subpoena the driver’s phone records and vehicle EDR data, a spokesperson replied: “The police have investigated the matter and deemed there was no criminality involved. As such, we would not issue a subpoena.”

Informed that NYPD said the case is still open, the spokesperson wrote: “The information I have is that the police have so far deemed it non criminal. If that should change we would, of course, review the matter.”

Whatever NYPD is doing to hold this reckless motorist accountable for injuring five schoolchildren, it’s pretty clear that so far Richard Brown is doing nothing.

Despite initial reports that downplayed the victims’ injuries, the Daily News says 13-year-old Angie Pena, the first victim Lu hit, is in critical condition. “The car smashed into her and hurt her really badly,” her father said.

Marina Abadir, 14, suffered head trauma, multiple spine fractures, and had surgery on both elbows. “They’re not really sure how many bones are fractured in her body,” said Sherif El Gawly, Abadir’s uncle.

Ashley Khan, 13, who like Abadir was pinned under the vehicle, has fractures to her pelvis and legs. Khan’s arterial blood flow was affected, the News says, and she has numbness in her leg.

Meanwhile, DNAinfo reports that I.S. 73 principal Camillo Turriciano sent out a letter yesterday advising parents not to allow kids to use electronic devices on their way to school:

The safety and well being of every child at Frank Sansivieri Intermediate School 73 remains at the forefront. To this end, we are sending you this notice pertaining to the safety of our students when traveling to and from school as an incident occurred earlier today.

Many of our students travel to and from school using public transportation each and every day. All children must be encouraged to be aware of their surrounding when riding the bus or train and walking to and from the school building. Headphones, CD players, iPODS or any other electronic devices used by children to occupy their time when commuting can be a threat to their safety as they do not permit children to hear what is going on in their surrounding environment. Therefore, as a continued safety precaution, we are asking that you keep your child free from using any listening devices when commuting so that they may be more in tune with their immediate surroundings.

There is no evidence that the kids who were struck yesterday were using electronic devices when Lu mounted the curb and plowed into them at speed, and there is no evidence that the presence or lack of headphones on the victims’ ears would have made any difference.

Turriciano could have written a letter asking parents not to drive kids to school, for the safety of their children and everyone else’s. He could have called on parents to pressure NYPD, DA Brown, and Council Member Elizabeth Crowley to hold the driver accountable. Instead he blamed all students in his care for engaging in what he believes to be dangerous behavior. This does nothing to help ensure this won’t happen to other kids.

Neither Lu nor his daughter were injured in the crash. “I have a police report, and the insurance company is working on the matter,” Lu told the Daily News. “I don’t want to comment on anything else.”

  • Willy

    I emailed Kevin Ryan, DA Brown’s communications director. He responded:

    “The police have investigated the matter and so far have deemed it to be non-criminal. If that should change, the district attorney’s office will take appropriate action.”

  • Kevin Love

    Sooner or later, one of these car drivers is going to kill or injure a child whose family reflects a cultural attitude where the family believes, “if the police do not pursue justice, we will.”

    Why do I suspect that if one of these child-murdering car drivers is shot dead on the street that suddenly it will not be a “no criminality suspect” incident.

    Good luck getting a conviction if I am sitting on the jury. I consider that if the police refuse to protect families then it is legitimate self-defence.

  • Mark Walker

    Hey kids. Put away that iPhone. You never know when a car will suddenly blast into the sidewalk, requiring you to avoid injury by levitating into the air, transporting yourself to another dimension. or using your telekinetic abilities to stop the car at the curb. Remember, if you get hurt, you are the one to blame because you failed to use your supernatural abilities to save yourself. The driver, of course, bears no responsibility whatsoever.

  • Anonymous

    Hopefully the CIS got involved right after the crash, and not only later when people started demanding an investigation. In any event, it looks like subpoena of cell phone or EDR data is off the table, so it’s hardly a full investigation. The conclusion that there is no recklessness or criminal negligence has been assumed at the start, so there will be no attempt to obtain the critical evidence that would prove or disprove recklessness or criminal negligence.

    I would be interested to know whether there were any skid marks made by the vehicle at all, which is something that can only be determined immediately after the crash. My guess, based on what is depicted in the video and the still images from the scene is no–that the driver made absolutely no effort to brake and that the car was stopped by the incremental effect of striking the curb; the streets sign and parking meter pole; the five children; and finally the do not enter sign at the far end of the sidewalk, where it came to rest.

  • Albert

    When I saw in the video that the girl who first got hit had just pulled out her cell phone, I cynically said to a friend, “You see? A distracted pedestrian again brings on her own injuries!” [Bitter laughter] I told my friend that someone was sure to try to blame this victim in this way, as usual.

    Well, I thought I was kidding: “I.S. 73 principal Camillo Turriciano sent out a letter yesterday advising parents not to allow kids to use electronic devices on their
    way to school…”

    If only this reckless young pedestrian had been wearing a bike helmet.

  • Eric McClure

    Instead of admonishing children for wearing headphones, Principal I.S. 73 Principal Camillo Turriciano should be sending every parent a copy of the horrific video of the crash.

  • Eric McClure

    Some of these kids may be left with injuries that will cause them pain or impairment for the rest of their lives.

  • Daniel Winks

    What other options are there, really? Just watch as someone gets away with a crime? It’s one thing to pursue vigilante justice after the police investigate and a jury passes a verdict, but when none of those things occur what else is there to do? If this were my child, and the driver didn’t even get investigated, you better believe I’d break as many of his bones as he has broken. Of course, I’m smart enough to know to just mow him down in the street with a car, since apparently that’s perfectly ok and legal to do…

  • vnm

    So a guy on a bike hits Nicole Kidman, causing her to feel “shaken up,” and he is summonsed for riding on the sidewalk. Fine. But a guy driving a car inflicts potentially life-altering injuries to a group of children, and he doesn’t at least get summonsed for DRIVING on the sidewalk???? WTF.

  • Joe R.

    This idiot principal should be on the unemployment line for saying something so blatantly stupid. These children were on a sidewalk. I think it’s reasonable to assume it’s safe to be use electronic devices in places where cars aren’t supposed to be. Even if I play Devil’s Advocate, exactly how would not using electronic devices have changed the outcome here? These kids were hit from behind, with no chance to really get out of the way. I hope this goes viral and this f-ing moron loses his job over it.

  • Reader

    A great way for the next mayor to live up to his “not Bloomberg” promises would be to get the NYPD and the DA’s office to do something about garbage like this.

    I can’t think of a sharper distinction to make between the current administration and the next one.

  • Anonymous

    This sounds procedurally appropriate, but naive to the reality that NYPD tends to give drivers a lot of benefit of the doubt in determining whether criminality was involved.

  • Robert Wright

    The letter is even more astonishing in light of the information that the driver himself had a child at the school. Why in the name of all that’s good didn’t the principal write to parents and say, “If you really must drive your child to school, please try to observe some minimum driving standards, in order to avoid ruining the lives of your child’s classmates”? It’s hardly a very complicated message. And it has the virtue that, if people paid attention to it, it might improve safety.

  • Anonymous

    I hope this goes viral and this f-ing moron loses his job over it.

    Me too.

  • BornAgainBicyclist

    I suggested something similar when I wrote to this guy to tell him how, um, disappointing his response was, along the lines of, next time this kind of thing happens consider writing to parents that: driving is a privilege and responsibility, please drive with particular caution when in close proximity to children and other human beings, we hope you agree that protecting our kids is worth it, etc.

    Really en-effing unbelievable.

    Anyway, write to all these folks, people. If they hear it enough, some of them will start to get it.

  • Ian Turner

    Principals are unionized, nothing is going to happen to him.

  • Jesse

    I hope this sparks an honest debate and not a flame war:

    I can´t help but think that this particular strategy in the livable streets movement is a little wrongheaded. I don´t think we´ll change the culture through use of the law.

    We´ve already seen how the culture stifles every attempt to hold people accountable for deadly driving. When you push to get a law passed, the police won´t enforce it. If the police even bother to investigate the prosecutor won´t prosecute. If the prosecutor does prosecute the jury won´t convict. If the jury does convict the courts may eventually overturn.The NY Times covered this here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/nyregion/serious-charges-in-fatal-crashes-pose-challenge-for-prosecutors.html?pagewanted=all

    The problem is that at every level there are gatekeepers who are just as much a part of the culture that we seek to change as the drivers themselves. They simply don´t want to see this kind of behavior as criminal because they are as beholden to car culture as anyone else. Because bad drivers, even those who kill and maim people, are not evil. In a culture where “occasional lapses” behind the wheel are the norm, a tragedy like this really could happen to anyone who drives.

    But in order to get cases like this to move forward you have to change the minds of all of these gatekeepers which is really not that much easier than changing the culture. All of those people have to believe in the cause. It´s not just a matter of having a mayor who will prioritize vehicular crime. It also means having a police commissioner and officers´ union who care, a jury that gets it, and courts that will allow prosecutors to do their jobs. That means overturning or distinguishing all of this bad precedent out there or getting the state legislature to fix it. All of those minds have to be changed. In other words if you want to use the law to change the culture you have to first… change the culture?

    The laws and their enforcement follow the culture and not the other way around. By the time we get such widespread agreement that reckless dangerous driving is, in fact, criminal, I believe the culture will already have changed, people will be more careful behind the wheel – not because bad driving is criminal but because bad driving will be perceived as immoral – and reckless dangerous driving will no longer be as big a problem as it is. By the time you convince authorities to enforce these laws, the laws will already be unnecessary.

  • Joe Enoch

    Cars are the leading cause of accidental death of minors in NYC. Cars
    are deadly. When a driver gets behind the wheel of a 6,000 lb vehicle
    they understand that it is a dangerous machine with often deadly
    consequences when it comes into contact with humans. Those are the risks THE DRIVER takes, not pedestrians
    or bicyclists or anyone else who crosses their path. Why are the
    drivers not held accountable for unsafely operating a deadly device?

  • Kevin Love

    Interesting ideas. Thank you for posting this. Here is my opinion.

    On the one hand, probably the greatest cultural change in US society during my lifetime was ending the reign of Jim Crow in the US South. That was done by top-down force imposed by federal government soldiers, guns and bayonets. So yes, it is possible to change a culture by imposing change by force from the top down.

    On the other hand, the Dutch model was to change the infrastructure to achieve the goal of making the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of getting from A to B walking,cycling or public transit. When driving became very much a minority transportation mode share, people were no longer prepared to tolerate violent, dangerous criminal car drivers. Today in The Netherlands, killing someone with a car is like lynching a black person in the US South. Those things used to be OK to do, but not any more.

    Here is a video showing current Dutch attitudes toward negligent car drivers.

    http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2011/02/when-cyclists-matter-car-crash-and.html

    It is my personal opinion that we can do both. This is not an either/or situation. We can change and enforce the laws, and change the infrastructure. Let us go ahead and do both things, so that we stop killing children.

  • Anonymous

    30 years ago, drunk driving was not considered that big of a deal. Today, it is widely recognized as morally wrong, there are significant legal consequences, and enforcement is taken quite seriously.

    A lot of this change was achieved through passing laws to make it easier to prosecute drunk drivers, and pushing police departments to prioritize enforcement of these laws. There were also some significant education and propaganda efforts.

    My point is that I don’t think it would be that difficult to change attitudes about driving so that people take more responsibility for their conduct behind the wheel. The biggest impediment is the fact that there are few if any consequences for the drivers.

  • Kevin Love

    I agree, except these are not accidental deaths. They are criminal negligence and 100% preventable.

  • Larry Littlefield
  • Jennifer Anzelmo

    Mr. Vaccaro, In answer to your above question: no, there are no skid marks at all. How do I know? I live around the block from where this horrific accident occurred. My 13 year old daughter attends this school, and personally knows the victims. Even though I believe no criminal intent was involved, this negligent driver SHOULD have his license suspended for a while, AND ordered to take safety driving lessons before EVER getting behind the wheel again. Also, the driver stated that he has a police report, and his insurance company was “handling the matter” and he had no further comment. How about an “I am so sorry for the injuries I caused these children.”? He seems so cold and unremorseful.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not necessarily coldness or lack of remorse, but self-interest (usually of the monetary kind. Not that that’s any nicer…). Insurance companies and lawyers always advise their clients to never say anything that could be interpreted as an admission of guilt, regardless of whether you are guilty or not. Or even better, not say anything at all.

  • Kevin Love

    The child killer was “surprised” that the sun sets in the West? Clear criminal negligence. The criminal child killer deserved a criminal conviction and lengthy jail term.

    He didn’t deserve mob justice, but I’m not crying a river of tears that the mob got this child killer off the streets – something that the police failed to do.

  • What I have “already seen” is different from what Jesse and the New York Times have already seen. I’ve seen crashes getting more detailed and investigative attention from new media than old. I’ve seen the the dull, soporific platitude that it’s always “just a tragic accident” disrupted by more and more people asking naturally, “how did the driver let this happen?” I’ve seen progress.

    We have a long way to go but I count every lost case in the courts as a win over cases not taken to the courts, and every politician called out for condoning negligence as a win over politicians being praised for condoning negligence.

    As Kevin says, let’s keep doing both things. And let’s let people do their own things. Jesse might not be comfortable running up against the gatekeepers and being repelled, but I oppose anyone’s effort to tone down the bare and honest ethical stance that Streetsblog takes on vehicular negligence. There are plenty of places to ingest compromised views on transportation.

  • Anonymous

    I doubt this driver intended to hit anyone. But based on the video, it appears to me that he took his eyes off the road for an extended period of time while the car was operating. In my book, that is reckless. Period. A seven year old adept at video games would have done a better job in the three seconds this guy had to avoid the crash–would have braked or at least swerved–but this guy did nothing, which tells me he simply wasn’t looking at the road.

  • Andrew
  • Pedal Power Pete

    Steve, didn’t you mention once that motorists driving with those steel reinforced bumper-bars are negligent in that they are defeating the (somewhat identifiable) pedestrian safety designs built into the soft bumpers? These steel bar bumpers should not be allowed around pedestrians.

  • Driver

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