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No Charges for Van Driver Who Killed Elderly Woman in Crosswalk

4:16 PM EDT on September 26, 2014

The day after a commercial van driver killed an elderly woman in a Manhattan crosswalk, no charges have been filed, though NYPD implied but failed to confirm that the victim had the right of way. The company that employs the driver, meanwhile, refused to say if he will face any disciplinary action, and he could be back behind the wheel tomorrow.

Image: WNBC
Image: WNBC
Image: WNBC

At approximately 1:30 p.m. yesterday, the driver turned left from eastbound Kenmare Street onto Elizabeth Street, striking East Village resident Sui Leung, 82, in the crosswalk on the north side of the intersection. She was transported to Downtown Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

"Police did not suspect any criminality and the driver was not charged," the Daily News reported yesterday. That remains the case today.

NYPD's public information office told Streetsblog that the driver had a green light. A visit to the intersection today showed that pedestrians are given the "walk" signal concurrently with green lights on Kenmare, meaning turning drivers must yield to pedestrians. When Streetsblog asked NYPD to confirm that Leung had the right of way, a department press officer said, "We don’t know that yet."

When a driver strikes a pedestrian or cyclist with the right of way, it is a violation of Section 19-190, a local law that took effect August 22. Days later, a pedestrian in an Upper East Side crosswalk with the signal was killed by a turning driver. At first, NYPD told Streetsblog that "both of them had the right of way," then weeks later the department filed its first-ever Section 19-190 charges against the driver.

Police would not release the identity of the driver who struck Sui Leung because no charges had been filed, but the van involved was clearly marked as belonging to Party Rental Ltd. of Teterboro, New Jersey.

Streetsblog asked Party Rental Ltd. if the company had taken any disciplinary action against the driver since the crash. “We determine that based on what we hear from the authorities," said Barney Drew, the company's vice president of human resources. Drew would not say whether the company had been in contact with NYPD since the crash, or if the company would keep the employee off the road pending the results of the investigation. "He’s not driving today because it’s his off day," he said. “I am being purposely evasive because you’re asking questions about an ongoing process.”

A Streetsblog reader reports that police were in the area today ticketing cyclists for going through red lights, though we were unable to confirm that information. Update:  The reader offered more detail about her interaction with the officer who stopped her. “He said someone had been killed earlier, and he suggested I just not ride my bike,” she said. "It appears this is how the precinct is dealing with pedestrian deaths.”

This fatal crash occurred in the 5th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Fernando Burgos, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 5th Precinct council meetings happen at 7 p.m. on the last Tuesday of the month at the precinct, 19 Elizabeth Street. Call 212-334-0711 for information.

Update (Saturday, September 27): Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents the area where the crash occurred, released a statement. "This death was tragic, and my thoughts and prayers are with the family of Sui Leung at this deeply difficult time," she said. "After learning of the circumstances around the incident, in which it seemed clear that Ms. Leung had the right of way, I found it troubling that no charges were filed against the driver. If this is truly the full extent of the NYPD investigation into this pedestrian death, I believe that is disappointing and should perhaps be reconsidered by NYPD officials."

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