NYPD: “No Criminality” When MTA Bus Driver Kills Senior and Leaves Scene

An MTA bus driver killed a senior at a Brooklyn intersection. The red arrow represents the approximate path of the bus, and the white arrow the approximate path of the victim, according to NYPD’s account of the crash. Image: Google Maps
An MTA bus driver killed a senior at a Brooklyn intersection. The red arrow represents the approximate path of the bus, and the white arrow the approximate path of the victim, according to NYPD’s account of the crash. Image: Google Maps

Update: Bus driver Paul Roper was charged with felony leaving the scene, failure to yield, and careless driving, according to NY1.

An MTA bus driver struck and killed a senior with a walker at a Brooklyn intersection and left the scene this morning. Though it was a hit-and-run crash and it appears likely the victim had the right of way, NYPD declared “no criminality” before investigators even located the driver.

According to reports and photos of the scene, the 70-year-old victim was crossing Fulton Street at Sackman Street south to north in or near an unmarked crosswalk, and the driver, traveling south on Sackman, turned east — left — onto Fulton, striking her with the rear wheels of the bus.

“(The bus driver) never stopped, just was just going,” witness Ramon Garcia told the Daily News. “He never realized what had happened. It’s a big machine. I guess you don’t feel something like that.”

The victim died at the scene. Her name has yet to be released. The woman lived in a nearby shelter and went by the nickname “Freckles,” according to DNAinfo. Update: The Times identified the victim as Carol Bell.

DNAinfo reported that police found the bus, which was out of service, at the East New York Bus Depot a short distance away. The Post said the driver was being questioned. Witnesses told DNAinfo the bus driver “stopped briefly and then continued driving.” To secure a conviction for leaving the scene, New York State law requires prosecutors to prove a driver knew or had reason to know a collision occurred.

There are no traffic signals at Fulton and Sackman. According to attorney Steve Vaccaro, based on information released by NYPD the bus driver would have had to stop for a stop sign and yield to any traffic in the intersection that was already there. If the victim was in an unmarked crosswalk at the intersection, she would have had “an absolute right of way over any motor vehicle,” Vaccaro told Streetsblog.

If the woman was determined to be outside the unmarked crosswalk, mid-block crossings of Fulton are permitted on the block where the crash occurred, since the intersection with Sackman is not signalized, Vaccaro said.

Though the driver left the scene and may have violated the Right of Way Law, NYPD told DNAinfo police “did not immediately suspect criminality.” The Right of Way Law, also known as Section 19-190, makes it a misdemeanor for a driver to injure or kill someone who is walking or biking with the right of way. NYPD has applied the law only a few dozen times since it took effect in 2014.

This morning’s crash is the first reported incident this year in which an MTA bus driver killed a pedestrian with the right of way. There were eight such fatalities in 2014. The crash comes after City Hall reached a settlement in a suit filed by the Transport Workers Union, which spent much of the year trying to gut the Right of Way Law. The settlement amounted to a clarification of the law, but the TWU trumpeted it as proof that bus drivers were wrongly arrested for killing people who were following traffic rules.

Today’s crash occurred in the 73rd Precinct, in Community Board District 16, and in the City Council district represented by Rafael Espinal.

Image: WNBC via @BrooklynSpoke
Image: WNBC via @BrooklynSpoke

Update: WNBC reported that there is video of the crash.

The bus plows into her just as she crosses the double yellow line in the street, sending both the woman and her walker flying. The bus stops briefly, the video shows, then pulls around the victim and drives off down the street.

  • Is there some way to bring a class action lawsuit against the NYPD/City for continually failing to enforce traffic laws to protect the people of the city?

  • Alex

    So what they’re saying is it’s the word of the driver against the word of the person he killed? It doesn’t need to be on purpose for it to be a crime. Someone has died by being cut in half by a bus. It was only a matter of time before this massive test to right of way would come, and it fails so quickly and tragically. This needs to be thrown right on the doorstep of TWU, who at this point sadly represent the failure of the union system, and I’m a pro-Union guy. So sad.

  • Brian Howald

    Why do they even bother to show up to the scene?

  • r

    This needs to be thrown right on the doorstep of Mayor de Blasio. If he had the guts to stand up to Bratton, this would change.

  • Maybe Karen Hinton or Wiley Norvell can get pissy about it on Twitter again. I’m sure that’ll allow de Blasio to sweep this one under the rug too.

  • r

    “The woman lived in a nearby shelter.”

    People on a Bronx sidewalk, a woman who lived in a shelter… had these victims been from Park Slope, the Upper East Side or members of any other constituency that’s important to the mayor, we’d have heard more from him by now. And we’d certainly hear more than a tepid defense of his administrations half-efforts on Vision Zero.

  • Brad Aaron

    Wish I could say I agree.

  • Alex

    I don’t think De Blasio has the leverage with Bratton at this point and that the momentum to shift De Blasio back to Vision Zero should start from slamming the TWU here.
    Bratton would only say this one death represents an 88% reduction YTD. It astounds me that garbage statistics silence the loudest complainers.

  • stairbob

    HE CAN FIRE BRATTON AT WILL.

  • Alex

    He should have never hired him!

  • dave “paco” abraham

    @bradaaron:disqus FYI… there is no mention of ‘criminality suspected’ on the DNA info article. It was removed with the update it seems. DO you have a screengrab from the initial posting?

  • Maggie

    they care when the injured party is a cop. That’s it.

    Whether or not de Blasio cares about the bloodshed on his streets – i don’t think anymore that he does – he ran on this issue. He campaigned on it. Pushing NYPD to step up and handle this with professionalism is within his reach. It’s the right thing to do. History is going to be unkind on people who looked the other way or pretended this didn’t matter.

  • Brad Aaron

    I do not.

  • dave “paco” abraham

    DNAinfo really should have gotten a name more than ‘NYPD’. Was it some local officer, CIS, who knows….

  • nanter

    You mean like the indignation and calls for action we heard from the mayor after this happened?:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/woman-dies-struck-yellow-cabs-upper-east-side-article-1.1753139

    We’d hear something if it were one of his children. Otherwise it doesn’t matter where or to whom the violence takes place.

  • The DNAinfo piece originally had “no criminality suspected”.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    that could easily be my mother or aunt who was murdered. the video still is enough to make a grown man weep.

    the driver knew he killed her and drove off

  • Maya

    The driver (identified in several news outlets) made 93K last year, according to the SeeThroughNY database. It must be nice to be paid so well and not even be expected to keep your eyes open at your job.

  • BBnet3000

    Down the memory hole again. Some “journalism” we have left in America.

  • Brad Aaron

    @davepacoabraham:disqus @brian_howald:disqus

  • Emmily_Litella

    I invite streestblog readers to observe buses making turns and entering and leaving bus stops. I do it, and frequently observe buses failing to use turn signals. Incidents of failure to use signals can be reported via the MTAs website’s contact us link. Turn signal use is not optional for any driver, especially bus drivers. The authorities are obliged to follow up on such reports with their own observations of errant drivers.

  • Andrew

    To be fair to DNAinfo, when it comes to the NYPD and drivers it’s a reasonable default assumption.

  • Felice

    Is the “no criminality” because it was made legal for bus and taxi drivers to leave the scene? In June, the Senate passed a bill that would prevent arrests of bus and taxi drivers in accidents, even fatal ones. “Police will not be able to detain any bus, taxi, or livery driver who strikes a pedestrian or cyclist with the right of way. These drivers would also not be held at the scene for committing reckless endangerment, assault, or other violations that are outside the scope of the state vehicle and traffic law.” Is this related to the “no criminality” mentioned here and, if so, why wasn’t the law mentioned?? http://www.streetsblog.org/2015/06/23/senate-passes-bill-to-prevent-arrests-of-bus-and-taxi-drivers-who-kill/

  • Andrew

    In my experience (which may or may not be typical), bus drivers tend to be much more likely to signal their turns than the general population of drivers. But they also tend to be somewhat less likely to yield to pedestrians than the general population of drivers, who themselves don’t have a great track record.

  • Morris Zapp

    That bill did not make it into law. It is not legal for drivers to leave the scene of a crash. According to statute, anyway.

  • SteveVaccaro

    Charges announced:

    “The driver, identified by police as Paul Roper, 48, was charged with
    leaving the scene of an accident, failure to yield to a pedestrian and
    failure to exercise due care in the death of Carol Bell less than a
    block away from her home.”

    http://www.metro.us/new-york/mta-bus-driver-charged-after-fatally-striking-70-year-old-brooklyn-woman-nypd/zsJokc—iGzGLsCbCVh/

  • walks bikes drives

    Steve?

  • D’BlahZero

    I’ve never gotten anything other than a boilerplate response for any complaint I’ve submitted to the MTA – mostly dangerously driven buses and Transit vehicles parked illegally. I’m disagreeing with your suggestion, but am curious as to whether or not you think the agency takes such incidents seriously?

  • c2check

    Not to mention buses that block the box (which I see frequently on streets around 42nd/5th)—which not only holds up traffic big time, but also make pedestrians have to walk dangerously around the bus, sometimes into traffic lanes, with a blocked view.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Whoever designed that intersection should go to jail as well. It is criminally negligent.

  • ThereIveSaidIt

    I bet the TWU is already formulating some BS about “blind spots” to justify this atrocity. In fact I’ve already seen “blind spot” comments from bus drivers on other sites, even in response to the very photograph posted above which shows beyond all doubt that he would have had no trouble seeing her at all.

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