No Charges for Bus Driver Who Killed Pedestrian Jennifer White-Estick

Police filed no charges against the MTA bus driver who killed a pedestrian in Bedford-Stuyvesant two weeks ago. Instead, NYPD and the tabloids put the victim on trial.

At around 1:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday, September 17, Jennifer White-Estick was run over while trying to retrieve her cell phone from underneath a B44 bus she had just exited at Bedford Avenue and Fulton Street.

Jennifer White-Estick. Photo via Facebook
Jennifer White-Estick. Photo via Facebook

By the time the Post published its extremely graphic report on the crash at around 4 p.m., police had declared “no criminality suspected.” Reporters from the Post and the Daily News focused on the actions of the victim, but abetted by NYPD, the Daily News took its reportage to new depths.

White-Estick had no ID on her, but the day after the crash, the Daily News reported that police found a crack pipe in her bra. Along with her identity, the Daily News announced last Wednesday that, according to unnamed sources, White-Estick had “a prior criminal record.” The paper also reminded readers about the crack pipe.

MTA bus drivers have killed at least four pedestrians and one cyclist this year; last year’s death toll was seven pedestrians and one man on a skateboard. Over half of those 13 crashes occurred as the bus driver was making a turn.

While the tabloids focused on the more salacious aspects of White-Estick’s personal life, and the gory details of her death, less attention was given to factors that might prevent the next MTA-involved pedestrian fatality.

“The bus driver, James Maxwell, told cops he didn’t see the woman,” the Daily News reported. Maxwell’s safety record was not mentioned, and there was only a passing reference to the role vehicle design may have played in the crash.

The front of the bus was equipped with a driver-assisting video camera, but a transit investigator who saw the video said it could not have provided a warning.

“You can’t see nothing,” the investigator said.

Earlier this month, Melania Ward was struck by the driver of the Q47 she’d been riding as she crossed Astoria Boulevard in Elmhurst. NYPD did not reveal who had the right of way, and no charges were filed.

Last March, an MTA bus driver turned into a crosswalk occupied by three people, striking and killing 21-year-old Marisol Martinez. After Martinez’s death, City Council Member Steve Levin called for changes to bus design, including guards that keep pedestrians away from the rear wheels. An MTA rep later said the agency had decided against installing such guards.

  • IlIlIl

    And in other news water is still wet and the sky is still blue.

    Drivers are immune to consequences as long as they aren’t trashed and stay at the scene.

  • SteveVaccaro

    Great report, Brad. I had not noticed the outrageously invasive reporting of the victim’s tattoos and other information from the autopsy report. Autopsy reports are supposedly so confidential that when lawyers representing the NYPD in a case where NYPD killed someone want a copy, they have to get a signed authorization from the next-of-kin authorizing disclosure. But here, “anonymous NYPD sources” just leaked the autopsy report and other details to Daily News, which dutifully reported them. Unbelievable. Next thing, they’ll start leaking these kinds of details with rape victims too. Why not? Makes good stories!

    Keep it classy, NYPD.

  • Kevin Love

    So where is the investigation into the leaker that violated this confidentiality?

    Oh, that’s right. The same place we find the assault charges against the NYPD officers that beat bloody an 84-year-old man. Its “no criminality suspected” whenever there is police wrongdoing.

  • Emmily_Litella

    I always yield to buses pulling out and properly signalling. If drivers were less selfish and would simply yield, a bus driver would not have to beg and inch along trying to leave a stop. They have a lot to look out for and need the public’s cooperation. Perhaps conditions outside of his control distracted his attention from seeing this young woman. Also, this is a big reason some buses don’t pull up to the curb, it takes too long to get back into the flow of traffic.

  • I’m generally quite skeptical of the Post and Daily News’s articles and aware of their bias, but come on. You want to blame the driver in a situation where someone crawled underneath a bus at a bus stop!? So now we have to design buses that alert the driver someone has crawled under their bus? Give me a break!

  • Brad Aaron

    Pointing out that police immediately exculpated the driver ? blaming the driver.

    And as always, limiting the discussion to what one particular victim did to get herself killed is a great way to make sure people keep dying.

  • Perhaps the NYPD is too quick to let drivers off the hook, but this does not seem to be such a case. To crawl underneath an idling bus goes beyond ordinary stupidity. Would you also investigate the driver if a pedestrian died jumping down to the roadway on the Brooklyn Bridge (perhaps to retrieve a phone)? All I’m saying is you should exercise some discretion and not immediately jump to blaming NYPD. If you do that, you are no better than them, just on the other side.

  • Brad Aaron

    Let’s say a child dropped a toy and reached under a bus to retrieve it. No investigation, no asking what might have prevented it. Just call it Darwin’s Law and wait for the next time, because if we’re comfortable with that there will definitely be a next time.

    Consistent knee-jerk ranking of victims by manner of death is the reason investigation reform is necessary in the first place.

  • qrt145

    Not even by the loosest interpretation of “reasonable suspicion” would I expect the NYPD to suspect criminality in this case. What exactly would be the charge? The driver failing to get off the bus and looking under it before departing from each stop? I don’t think you could get a conviction even with a jury composed entirely of victims of traffic violence.

    That’s not to say there isn’t room for an investigation about possible ways of preventing future tragedies like this one. But that would be a transportation safety investigation, not a criminal investigation and wouldn’t be conducted by the NYPD.

    Had the victim been a child, people would be blaming the parents.

    I do agree that the outrageously invasive reporting about the victim is wrong.

  • Brad Aaron

    Pointing out that police immediately exculpated the driver ? blaming the driver.

  • qrt145

    The default state should be to suspect nothing unless there’s, well, something suspicious. I agree with 99% of your complaints that the police exculpate drivers too soon, but not with this one.

  • Stewart Hughes

    thse buses drivers always say they didnt see the pedestrian, for one reason or another,,
    so we can conclude that the problem is the front part of the bus design,, once this problem is resolved this stuped bus drivers wont be able to kill as much pedestrians they want to,,,
    all u have to do is put a curved angular front part similar to car in front of the pus that can repead the pedestrian hi outwards from going down under the bus that is fatal,,,
    the tyre kills more than any thing else,,,
    is a desig feature problem quite easy to be resolve,.. and is being neglected..