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Motorist Fatally Strikes “Very Small” Pedestrian in Chinatown [Updated]

Canal Street, looking west, at Elizabeth Street, where a driver struck and killed a senior this morning. NYPD and a witness says the victim was crossing south to north (left to right) when the driver waiting at the light accelerated into her when the signal changed.  Image: Google Maps
Canal Street, looking west toward Elizabeth Street, where a driver struck a senior this morning. Image: Google Maps
Canal Street, looking west, at Elizabeth Street, where a driver struck and killed a senior this morning. NYPD and a witness says the victim was crossing south to north (left to right) when the driver waiting at the light accelerated into her when the signal changed. Image: Google Maps

Update: The victim was identified as Sau Ying Lee, 90. Though NYPD said Lee had the right of way, according to Lee's son no charges were filed against the driver by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

NYPD has filed no charges against a driver who killed a senior in Chinatown this morning.

The victim, believed to be in her 70s, was crossing Canal Street at Elizabeth Street at approximately 4 a.m., when the motorist hit her with a Jeep SUV, according to NYPD and published reports. Based on media accounts and information provided by police, it appears the victim was crossing Canal south to north and was struck when the driver, westbound on Canal, accelerated when the signal changed.

From the Daily News:

"I didn't see her, she was very small," said the 64-year-old driver, who was heading west on Canal St. but immediately stopped the car after the collision.

The man, who did not give his name, was in shock when he realized what had happened. "My heart, it's pounding."

Armando Noreles, 43, was stopped at the red light in his delivery truck beside the Jeep moments before the SUV slammed into the woman.

"We were waiting at the red light. When the light changed he started driving, and he didn't see the lady and he just hit the lady."

NYPD has not released the victim's identity, pending family notification. She died at New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital. "We saw her every day, every morning," Norales told the Daily News. "She was so cute. Early in the morning, she tried to get money collecting cans."

As of this morning, an NYPD spokesperson said there was "no criminality." Police had no information on who had the right of way, and said the Collision Investigation Squad was still working the crash.

"Council Member Chin’s office is actively reaching out to NYPD on this and will be closely following the investigation in this case, especially given that this is the third pedestrian fatality in our district in less than two months," said Chin spokesperson Sam Spokony via email. "We’re taking these pedestrian deaths very, very seriously."

Drivers have fatally struck three pedestrians, all seniors, in Chin's district since late summer. A motorist hit three women on South Street, killing 82-year-old Shu Fan Huang, in August. In September a commercial van driver hit Sui Leung, 82, as she crossed in the crosswalk at Kenmare and Elizabeth Streets. Chin said the crash report indicated Leung had the right of way, and she and other council members asked NYPD to pursue charges under Section 19-190, a law that makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to injure or kill pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way. Police have filed no charges in either crash.

Update: Chin's office issued a press release, excerpted below, which contains new information on how today's crash occurred, along with a statement from Chin calling for the prosecution of the driver.

The pedestrian was lawfully walking with the signal (“blinking hand”) as she crossed, and was still within the crosswalk when the signal changed and the light turned green for cars, according to the NYPD.

At the moment the light changed, while the pedestrian was still in the crosswalk, the driver of a 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee began driving forward and struck the pedestrian, leading to her death moments later, according to the NYPD.

Chief Chan’s office told Council Member Chin’s office today that no charges have yet been filed against the driver, although the NYPD’s Collison Investigation Squad is currently investigating the incident.

Council Member Chin released the following statement:

“Yet another tragedy has stuck Lower Manhattan. This is the third pedestrian death in my district in less than two months. And in each case, I have found myself saying the same thing: Why is the right of way not being respected? The truth is that excuses mean nothing when someone is killed as the result of negligence. If a pedestrian is within a crosswalk, they have the right of way. Period. If you are a driver, it is your responsibility to understand that a moving car is an extremely dangerous machine, and that you must be aware of your surroundings at all times. Period.

“I will continue to work with the Department of Transportation to make our streets safer, but I will also continue to advocate for charges to be filed against drivers who hit and kill pedestrians in a crosswalk. So I’m calling for charges to be filed as a result of today’s incident, and I will remain in touch with the office of NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan to closely follow the NYPD’s investigation into this tragic death.”

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