No Charges for Van Driver Who Killed Elderly Woman in Crosswalk

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

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.”

  • Eric McClure

    Not acceptable. “Right” of way is a misnomer, obviously.

  • JohnDoe

    Color me shocked.

  • Reader

    It appears that only the so-called “bike community” seems to give a damn when drivers mow down pedestrians and face no consequences for their actions.

  • I predicted yesterday that this would lead them to ticket cyclists.

    Given that pedestrians are safer around bikes than other vehicles, this act by deterring people from cycling will actually make the intersection more dangerous.

    Congratulations, NYPD!

  • J

    Didn’t quite follow you there

  • Alex

    To be fair, the police took some time to fully investigate and charge the cab driver that killed a woman on the Upper East Side a few weeks ago. As long as they actually ARE investigating and do file charges where it’s appropriate, I’m OK with it taking some time. The bike ticketing, however, is idiotic.

  • JohnDoe

    Ho-boy. You caught us all red-handed. /s

    It appears that the only time people give crap about a pedestrian death is when it is at the hands of a cyclist. Where are the front page stories about these continuous pedestrian-vehicle collisions, which happen at a much greater frequency and severity than any bike-pedestrian collision?

  • Ian Turner
  • vnm

    Points on style and openness to Barney Drew at the Party Rental offices for actually picking up the phone and speaking candidly when contacted by Streetsblog about their employee.

  • lop

    Only if someone drives instead of bikes. The general assumption by the powers that be is that either the trip won’t be made or it will be made by transit.

  • Jesse

    Troll. You’re not worth logging in for a down vote (but you are worth calling out as a troll).

  • GetHubNub

    I’ve witnessed the senile elderly have no regard for street lights, they just enter the street any time they pleases, especially the Chinese elderly for some reason. 81 years old is too elderly to be navigating city streets by one’s self.

  • Reader

    My point is that only Streetsblog covers this stuff with any detail. They get dismissed as the bike community, but in reality they’re the only new org covering his stuff in any meaningful fashion. No one else seems to care… unless it’s a cyclist that does the killing and then it’s all over the Post.

  • Joe R.

    Part of it might just be the fact that many Chinese in Chinatown don’t speak English, don’t drive, and therefore have no idea what is involved safely crossing a busy street. And then if I recall in mainland China red means go and green means stop at the relatively few traffic signals which exist there. This only further adds to the confusion.

    All that said, let’s not blame the victim here. It’s clear the turning driver had to yield and didn’t. Certainly he/she knew the law even if Ms. Leung may not have.

  • chekpeds

    Being one of the “senile elderly” I am quite offended by your language and your misunderstanding of the law. I see that you would have all 81 years old sent to a camp or on house arrest .

    The law says the pedestrian has the right of way and even more so in a pedestrian crossing with the walk sign. Which was the case here. This is NOT to the pedestrian to watch around when the signal supposedly protects them, but rather BY LAW , to the driver to pay attention and stop.

    There is driving while black, riding while a bicyclist , and now walking while senior. Welcome to a world of profiling.

  • chekpeds

    We should change it to “OWN THE WAY” . Words that our capitalist society understands better. This would be treated like robbery and would be investigated by detectives, perceived as a noble pursuit by the cops currently busy pursuing property and smart phone thefts.
    Also it would not require the cops being present at the time of the crime.

  • chekpeds

    What is there to investigate. By definition, if the car turns at the green light, the ped is crossing with the walk sign and has the right of way. There is NO other plausible scenario unless the ped was jumping out of a window and landed in the crossing during the walk sign.

    Those peds are devious!

  • lop

    certainly he/she knew the law even if Ms. Leung may not have

    You would hope so, but given how many maniacal drivers have yelled at me for using a crosswalk I’m not sure that’s the case.

  • lop

    I think some drivers stop looking for new peds after the don’t walk starts flashing. It if says five seconds left they assume you won’t start crossing, so they only look for peds already coming from the far side of the intersection. I wonder if NYPD would say that’s fine and it’s the peds fault for crossing when they weren’t supposed to.

  • Ian Turner

    Traffic signals in China have the same meaning as in the US, and they are not rare.

  • annonymous

    Technically pedestrians are not supposed to enter the intersection after the don’t walk starts flashing, parially to allow a window for cars to turn, and partially to ensure they’d have enough time to cross.

    That doesn’t mean you can hit the ones that do, though.

  • walks bikes drives

    The point of the law was that a detailed investigation would not be needed by CIS and a precinct level officer could make the arrest. In the past, NYPD claimed the precinct officers couldn’t do anything unless they witnessed the incident. Only CIS could bring charges after an investigation. The City Council, with some pushing, wasn’t happy with this excuse, since most incidents were not investigated. So they passed a law making it a misdemeanor, thus allowing precinct officers to make an arrest without witnessing the incident. But if only CIS uses the law, it is not being used as intended.

  • walks bikes drives

    My in-laws are above 81 and while they might not be able to run as fast as you can, I would bet they could run mental circles around you any day.

  • sammy davis jr jr

    True to form, the NYPost reported just that “The driver of the van had the green light”
    The fact the driver was turning left and was supposed to yield, was conveniently omitted.

  • walks bikes drives

    When I was in Vietnam, traffic signals really did not exist. You just stepped out into traffic, eyes in the direction you were going, and walked forward at a steady pace. All of the motor bikes forming the vehicle swarm coming at you just parted the way for you. It was tough to get used to, but in a way, the ultimate form of pedestrian right of way.

    But even if some transplants cross in the same way here, the point is moot in this case. She had the walk AND was in the crosswalk.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    But how much is the van worth?

  • Andres Dee

    And what was the driver wearing? Was the radio on? Was there coffee in the cupholder?

  • Andres Dee

    I think Joe is being facetious. 🙂

  • Guest

    How was the NYPD able to immediately confirm that the driver had a green light, but was still unable to determine if the pedestrian had the right of way?
    Is there any scenario where they aren’t both incompetent and dishonest with these conflicting statements?

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