Unlicensed Dump Truck Driver Kills Senior Near Bowery and Canal

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

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.

  • vnm

    Trucks like this would be more likely to use highways, where they don’t interfere with pedestrians, if we had rational tolling, like the Move NY plan, or at a minimum, two-way tolls on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Chinatown is besieged by interstate traffic blasting by people’s windows and crosswalks. I can’t believe we as a society stand for this.

  • Jimmy

    I learned “pedestrians always have the right of way.” Is this not true? Can I just drive down the streets looking for people outside of crosswalks and kill them with impunity? Heck, I even have a valid driver’s license! Maybe I’ll even get a commendation by the Police Commissioner.

  • When I cycle across the Manhattan Bridge, I see vehicles – including many Manhattan-bound vehicles – doing absurd speeds. Has the NYPD considered whether the vehicle’s speed played a role in this unlicensed driver’s inability to stop in time?

    The last question’s rhetorical, incidentally. Of course they haven’t looked at it. The case is closed as far as they’re concerned, no matter what speed he was doing.

  • Simon Phearson

    “We,” meaning the residents of NYC, are more or less powerless to change anything about it. “We,” meaning the New York State Assembly, is what stands for it.

  • WalkingNPR

    You are not right.

    You can also kill them in crosswalks with impunity…most of time.

  • 1ifbyrain2ifbytrain

    This is another busy intersection (along with Flatbush/Atlantic/4th Ave in Brooklyn + 34th Street/7th & 42nd/6th/Broadway in Manhattan) where I’ve witnessed traffic police waiving automobiles through red lights into pedestrian crosswalks.

  • c2check

    When I take the train across the Williamsburg bridge, I see the same—(with the addition of people texting while driving)

    I still don’t understand why we can’t find out how fast this truck was going. With modern technology, black box recorders should be in every vehicle and should be able to provide this information.

  • LN

    When are we going to make the companies which own the trucks and employ unlicensed or improperly licensed/insured drivers responsible for the death and injury of their employees operating their vehicles? At the very least, agencies should look the safety record of companies for which they are considering giving City contracts.

  • Jonathan R

    Great point. Who gives out the keys of their dump truck to someone with no driver’s license?

  • Andrew

    I learned “pedestrians always have the right of way.” Is this not true?

    Not true.

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/trafrule.pdf – especially, but not exclusively, section 4-04. Legally, pedestrians have the right of way in some cases and not in others.

    Can I just drive down the streets looking for people outside of crosswalks and kill them with impunity?

    No, motorists are required to “exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian” – even a pedestrian in the wrong. Which I’d suspect that this unlicensed dump truck driver might not have been doing.

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