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Unlicensed Dump Truck Driver Kills Senior Near Bowery and Canal

1:02 PM EDT on July 20, 2015

A dangerous intersection awaiting a safety fix. A precinct that lags on street safety. And a driver who could have faced stronger charges if Albany had taken action. Image: WNBC
The driver of this truck was operating with a suspended license when he struck and killed Ka Chor Yau last week. Image: WNBC
A dangerous intersection awaiting a safety fix. A precinct that lags on street safety. And a driver who could have faced stronger charges if Albany had taken action. Image: WNBC

On Friday afternoon, a dump truck driver with a suspended license struck and killed 83-year-old Ka Chor Yau, who was crossing a deadly intersection at the base of the Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown. The same intersection is due to receive pedestrian safety improvements this summer.

The driver, 24-year-old Maykel Felix-Tejada of Paterson, New Jersey, was arrested for aggravated unlicensed operation, the standard charge for driving without a valid license. He was not charged for any crimes related to Yau's death. Police said Yau was outside the crosswalk and did not have the right of way.

A bill to toughen penalties for unlicensed drivers who injure or kill passed the State Senate earlier this year but did not clear the Assembly. Under the bill, these drivers would face felony charges for vehicular assault or vehicular homicide.

The intersection where Yau was killed is slated to receive upgrades that would make it safer for pedestrians to cross near the mouth of the Manhattan Bridge. The plan to add a crosswalk, traffic signal, and curb extensions has received the support of Manhattan Community Board 3, and DOT says implementation is slated to begin in early August, with completion in October.

Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents the area, has regularly spoken out about pedestrian deaths on Canal Street. Her bill requiring DOT to study bicycle and pedestrian safety along truck routes, including Canal Street, was signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio last month.

"When I stood at [last] week’s Vision Zero vigil reading the names of those killed in traffic crashes so far this month, I had a bad feeling that there might be another name to add to the list," Chin said in a statement. "My heart goes out to the family of the victim of today’s crash, which is an unfortunate reminder that our city still has a long way to go to achieve our shared vision of zero pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities on our roadways. My office continues to work with the Department of Transportation to install traffic calming measures to slow down trucks exiting the Manhattan Bridge and to protect pedestrians and bicyclists at this deadly crossroads.”

The crash occurred in the 5th Precinct, where officers regularly conduct red-light stings targeting bicyclists coming off the Manhattan Bridge and on Chrystie Street. Through the end of June, the precinct issued 88 speeding tickets, or less than one every other day, and 105 failure to yield tickets, or approximately four each week.

To voice your concerns about traffic safety to Deputy Inspector Fernando Burgos, commanding officer of the 5th Precinct, you can attend the next community council meeting, scheduled for September 30 at 7 p.m. at the 5th Precinct, located at 19 Elizabeth Street.

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