MTA Bus Driver Kills Senior in Midtown; NYPD, Media Blame Deceased Victim

West 57th Street, looking westbound, where an MTA bus driver killed Rochel Wahrman this morning. Image: Google Maps
West 57th Street, looking westbound, where an MTA bus driver killed Rochel Wahrman this morning. Image: Google Maps

An MTA bus driver killed a senior in Midtown this morning.

At around 9:40 a.m. Rochel Wahrman, 69, was crossing W. 57th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue south to north when the driver of a westbound X5 hit her with the left side of the bus, according to reports.

From the Daily News:

The fatally injured woman was on her knees, leaning up against the bus, in the moments following the crash, witnesses said.

She had her head bowed down… she wasn’t moving,” said Shams Sheikh, 56, manager of a nearby newsstand. “The medics came right away.”

Wahrman died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

West 57th Street is four lanes, two in each direction, at the site of the crash. Photos of the scene show the bus stopped in the inside westbound lane. If Wahrman was crossing south to north, she would have walked across two lanes, approaching the middle of the street from the bus driver’s left, before she was hit.

DNAinfo and JP Updates cited police sources who said Wahrman was jaywalking and that the bus driver had the right of way. There were no reports of how fast the driver was going, or how he failed to see Wahrman in the street.

NYPD told JP Updates “no criminal activity was suspected” and “police are not expecting to file any charges.”

Wahrman was at least the second person struck by an express bus driver in Midtown in eight days. On August 12, a BxM9 driver seriously injured a man with a cane on Fifth Avenue at 56th Street. The MTA and DNAinfo blamed the victim.

  • c2check

    Thank you for pointing this part out:
    “There were no reports of how fast the driver was going, or how he failed to see Wahrman in the street.”

  • Gepap

    While this is tragic, we have designated crosswalks and rules of the road for a reason.

  • Eric McClure

    No handcuffs, I suppose?

  • sbauman

    One of those rules of the road is:

    § 1146. Drivers to exercise due care. (a) Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law to the contrary, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicyclist, pedestrian, or domestic animal upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary.

  • Bobberooni

    Sorry, I blame the victim too. As far as I can tell from the pictures, that bus was doing what buses are supposed to do — move forward in a straight line, within a lane. Why did she put herself within 10ft of that bus?

    It’s easy to see how the driver failed to see Wharman in the street: he was looking ahead, to avoid hitting the vehicle in front of him. Funny thing, drivers can only look in one direction at once.

  • Jesse

    If you think the reason is to protect pedestrians then I have a bridge (without a dedicated transit lane) to sell you.

    Rule #1 – Jaywalking Rule: The rule strips pedestrians of their right of way except in a narrow set of circumstances. It effectively makes it legal to kill pedestrians except in a narrow set of circumstances. It’s hunting season on jaywalkers. If you see someone crossing mid-block, no need to slow down, just honk. Play the most one-sided game of chicken ever. You can’t lose.

    Rule #2 – Strict Liability: The driver is liable for harming pedestrians regardless of where or when they cross the street. Now it’s always illegal to kill pedestrians. If you see someone crossing the street, instead of reaching for the horn, you hit the brakes.

    What’s wrong with Rule #1? It creates the wrong incentives for drivers and gives them the sense that they are suffering pedestrians encroaching on their turf rather than the other way around. It contributes to a culture that kills hundreds of pedestrians in NYC every year.

    What’s wrong with Rule #2? It slows cars down. It marginalizes the people inside of cars and favors the people outside of them.

    We went with Rule #1 because it favored the fast movement of cars and it gives us the moral cover to say “well it’s their own damn fault”. We know people will continue to die but it’s a sacrifice we must make to keep the traffic flowing.

  • Gepap

    And?

    This blog has only the following info about the incident: the location, the time, and the participants. Instead of merely reporting, it creates a moral picture in which the driver must be presumed to be guilty (hence the claim “bus driver kills person”) and all other media must be condemned for not blaming the driver.

    For example, this blog twice states quite directly that DNA info “blamed the victim”. In the first post, relating to this incident, merely states that she was jaywalking. This is a factual statement, and one this blog is incapable of showing is false. In the second story mentioned about a previous incident DNA info included the testimony of a witness who blamed the victim, but again, can’t present to evidence that this statement was wrong.

    So, this blog wants to take a very specific moral stance and paint all events with it. As a pedestrian interested in public policy this moralistic nonsense is no better than what it accuses everyone else of doing, including DNA Info.

  • c2check

    If you drive a reasonable speed, you can use your peripheral vision to look for potential obstacles. You should also be scanning the width of the roadway. Things are far more likely to pop in front of you form the sides than to magically appear in front of you from the heavens.

    This is your responsibility as the operator of a large motor vehicle in an urban area (and even in non-urban areas, it’s a good idea, for avoiding deer for example)

  • Gepap

    Correct, our society has decided that the fast and efficient movement of traffic is an important value, important enough that even a few lost lives is a price worth paying, and as a full time pedestrian who has never even learned to drive, I agree with that decision. I can’t speak to the specifics of this event, but anyone walking through NYC has seen people who basically walk into speeding traffic, expecting the world to part traffic in front of them.

  • Raymond Cohen

    One of the photos on JP Updates shows men cleaning what appears to be the front left wheel of the bus that ran over this woman. Is the direction you’ve somehow surmised the driver was looking not a direction that should have enabled him to avoid running someone over with that wheel?

  • Jesse

    That’s because you can be assured that the people who die are almost certainly not going to be you or anyone you care about.

    My point is it’s still a choice. We choose to sacrifice some lives for a certain kind of amenity.

    And also, it has nothing to do with safety. When you say “we have rules for a reason” just be sure you know what that reason is.

  • Gepap

    Wow, what an utterly false and pointless statement! Bravo, sinking the discussion to such depths so quickly is quite an accomplishment, though at least you did not go Godwin.

    I have no idea if any of the people I love or care about are bad jaywalkers – I hope none aren’t, but if they would be killed while jaywalking because they were hit by a driver following most of the rules of the road, I will in no way place moral blame on said driver – why would I? The driver did nothing immoral. Neither would my friend, but it is them that took the dangerous action when it was not necessary.

    I am a NYC pedestrian, and thus have jaywalked plenty of times, but I do so only when I have done everything in my observational powers to not be in the way of traffic, because I understand that motorists have the ability to use the roads as well, and that in a collision between me and a two ton vehicle moving at 20 MPH, I lose. Did I have to jaywalk? No, I did it for convenience, because at that point violating the rules of the road in a manner that would not put my life or anyone else’s in danger was seen as the lesser evil of having to walk a greater distance of having to wait to have the right of way.

  • Bobberooni

    Spotting objects within inches of your left front wheel is probably hardest on a bus like that. I’ll bet it’s a blind spot. Unlike the left rear wheel, it’s not covered by a mirror. Nor can you just look down to see it easily.

  • Jesse

    I’m not placing moral blame on the driver. I’m placing it on the law and on the society that trades human life for motorist convenience. Also I forgot to mention in my last post that you are exactly as bad as Hitler.

    I think I’m going to get banned for saying that.

  • Bobberooni

    And what is a reasonable speed? The bus was likely going no more than 5-10 mph.

  • Gepap

    Why would you get banned for agreeing with the management?

    We as a society trade human lives for a LOT of things. Nations with strict liability rules are the exemption, not the rule globally.

  • Raymond Cohen

    Your powers of speculation are impressive.

  • Jesse

    Yeah it’s just a little messed up when it’s acknowledged like that. And for most people I think if you frame it that way it makes them uncomfortable. And we would do things differently in that case.

    If we really start to think about our streets as trading human lives for motorist convenience then maybe we will start to feel a little bit of moral responsibility about it. I think that’s what vision zero is about at bottom. That’s why I make that exaggerated point about jaywalking every chance I get.

  • Gepap

    To me, once you open up a street to cars, you invariably have to limit access to pedestrians, because humans walking at 3-5 MPH on the same street as vehicles travelling at much faster speed safely isn’t going to work, not with those vehicles being controlled by human beings, who are terribly fallible.

    You talk about motorist convenience, as if pedestrian convenience had to be a given – I don’t agree. Different modes of transit have their uses, and while I am a pedestrian, I don’t think the needs of others (and having through streets in which a vehicle and move at speeds higher than 5 MPH is not a mere convenience) should be ignored for my own, or those of other pedestrians.

    I support expanding the realm of pedestrians, creating more pedestrian plazas, more crossings in which pedestrians have the right of way, and cutting off vehicular traffic on narrow streets, like in the financial district – but 57th Street is a main thoroughfare and it makes sense to cede it to cars and to limit pedestrian access so that vehicular traffic can move crosstown in an efficient and timely manner.

  • c2check

    She didn’t notice the light turned green and the car in front of the bus started to move?

  • Yeah, when you’re driving, you’re supposed to be scanning the field in front of you. This doesn’t mean, looking in a straight line for objects directly in your path, this means scanning left and right for objects that may enter your path. I’m worried about who did your driver training if you don’t know this very very basic fact about driving. Yes, I think legally she might be at fault, but for you to wipe your hands at that and shrug, guess there’s nothing to be done, is the exact cause of the number of and indifference to the number of road deaths in the US. If you cannot even ask yourself, what should change so this doesn’t happen again, then there really isn’t much else to be said.

  • Driver

    Look at the picture on dnainfo. The bus wasn’t approaching the crosswalk, it driving away from the crosswalk. A more likely scenario is the woman was crossing through two lanes of stopped traffic, realized that the traffic on her side was starting to move, and rushed into the westbound lanes, possibly from behind a bus or truck. In this scenario, the bus would not see the woman coming, just as the woman would not have seen the bus coming if she did not stop and look.

  • William Farrell

    1) There is a moral picture around everything; the only difference is if we choose to acknowledge the moral framework in which we are operating.

    2) That the bus driver killed the woman and that the media blamed the victim are also both statements of fact. The facts that one chooses to report are indicative of the moral framework from which they are operating, just as it is in the case of other news media. When a cyclist gets run over by a car and the media report that “he was not wearing a helmet,” that is a statement of fact. However, by calling attention to such an irrelevant detail, they are implicitly blaming the victim.

  • Gepap

    The DNA article stated the woman jaywalked – jaywalking has a specific definition and the woman’s actions fit that definition. Telling us the facts of the case does not amount to “blaming”. That website, unlike this one, never used words of blame. It is impossible to get an accurate idea of the conditions of this specific incident without pointing out that the woman was not crossing at a crosswalk, given that the incident happened in the middle of the street. To leave out that detail is to deny the reader a clear understanding of the facts of the case.

    As for your cyclist example, if the cyclist is killed by the incident due to head injuries, then their lack of a helmet is a very relevant fact, just as if a motorist is killed in an accident and it turns out they were not wearing a seatbelt.

    I completely disagree with your claim that there is some implicit moral framework around everything – individuals have a choice on using language objectively or subjectively. this blog post chose to use language in a subjective moral framework explicitly and then incorrectly accuses DNA Info of the same acts, without evidence.

  • William Farrell

    What we think of as “objective” is basically no different than subjective with respect to a normative moral framework. The fact that it is normative masks the inherent subjectivity of the statement.

    My point about cyclists was that the helmet is often mentioned regardless of the cause of death, as if it would have done something to protect you when you’re under the wheel of a truck (not to mention the dearth of evidence about actually preventing head injury).

    Jaywalking is an inherently pejorative term coined by the automobile industry to re-frame the purpose of streets as primarily for the throughput of motor vehicle traffic (again, a moral claim that has become so normalized as to seem neutral). If you are looking for something with less emotional baggage, “mid-block crossing” would be far more descriptive.

  • Joe Enoch

    I happened to walk by moments after the incident. I didn’t see what happened but its worth noting it took place basically exactly mid-block. I loathe the term “jay walking” but there’s no way she was crossing in a cross walk. I also would find it hard to believe that anyone could have been speeding because 57th St at that hour, is a crawl.

  • Gepap

    “What we think of as “objective” is basically no different than subjective with respect to a normative moral framework.”

    Your statement presumes that there is a shared normative moral framework. I don’t agree with that presumption. I think people assuming that is highly problematic because they then view the actions and words of others using what they presume to be the normative moral framework, never once realizing that the other person does not in fact share that moral framework and is in fact using a completely different one.

    And yes, jaywalking does have inherently negative connotations, as it is defined as a violation of the rules – that doesn’t change the truth that when used to describe someone whose actions fit the definition, it is being used objectively. That as an individual you disagree about that being a violation does not change that – it does not make an objective statement suddenly subjective.

  • William Farrell

    Even when the average speed on a street is low, it only takes a few seconds for vehicles to accelerate to dangerous speeds when a gap in traffic presents itself. Especially when average speeds are low do drivers become aggravated enough to slam the gas pedal down and speed through the intersection when there is room to accelerate through the intersection.

  • Joe Enoch

    You’re absolutely 100 percent correct. But it just seems unlikely, especially by a bus, at that hour, on that particular stretch of 57th. I mean it literally is a stand-still. I walk this route regularly at that hour and it’s always faster to walk than to take the bus. There’s just no movement. I’m the first to assume driver error but I just can’t see how that would happen in this scenario — I also don’t know how a person could just walk under the wheels of a bus, but she wasn’t in the cross walk and the bus definitely wasn’t speeding so who the hell knows.

    Let me say though, however it happened it must have been horrific. It happened just moments before I walked by and the shocked horror on the faces of witnesses was enough for me to decide not to look at the corpse still on the street. Tragic.

  • Brad Aaron

    I’m glad you picked up on the moral framing. I’ve been working on that lately.

  • William Farrell

    There is absolutely a shared normative moral framework within societies. It is not absolute or universal to be sure, but there is undoubtedly a collective sense of values that inform a societal consciousness. It’s important to acknowledge its existence for the very reason you mention: when people stray from it they are accused of moralizing, without the accuser hides under a façade of neutrality and objectivity. In the U.S. for instance there are very strong themes of individualism, personal responsibility, negative liberty, market capitalism, and other subjective moral assessments that form the backbone of the status quo. It is important to place these assumptions on equal footing and understand that none of them are inherently neutral.

  • Andrew

    Assuming the reporting is correct, Rochel Wahrman did something wrong, contributing to her death. Does this mean that we shouldn’t bother to ask whether anybody else (such as the bus driver or a van driver) might have also done something wrong that might have also contributed to her death? Wahrman has already been punished for her error, but that doesn’t mean that nobody else was also at fault.

    Perhaps we could even go a step further and recognize that humans are fallible.

    Incidentally, on Friday, I crossed the street outside of the crosswalk – because a bus was blocking the entire width of the crosswalk during the entire pedestrian walk phase. Any suggestions on how I should have crossed the street?

  • Tyson White

    That block is a very short block. The location of the bus on the scene isn’t necessary the location of the impact. Often the victim is tossed or dragged 20-30 feet and the bus comes to a stop at a considerable distance from the impact point.

    Also, the reports that she was “jaywalk” were based on, and I quote, “preliminary investigation”. Traffic deaths investigation is the only government investigation I know where results are released to the media before the investigation is complete, but not after the investigation is complete. Car culture.

  • davistrain

    San Francisco has had a number of collisions with pedestrians being struck by buses and light-rail cars. Compare this with a person who is run over by a Mercedes driven by a lawyer for a petroleum company. The victim is just as dead, but the bus or train is public transportation, carrying people more efficiently than a private car, while the Mercedes is a symbol of excess and selfishness.

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