Truck Driver Charged With Reckless Driving for Killing Heather Lough at NYBG

A truck driver struck and killed a woman outside the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx last week. He has been charged with reckless driving and failure to yield.

Heather Lough. Photo via YouCaring
Heather Lough. Photo via YouCaring

The victim, 29-year-old Heather Lough, was heading to her job at the botanical garden on the morning of Wednesday, April 27, when Robert Owens, 45, hit her with a commercial box truck, according to NYPD and an online memorial page established to raise funds for Lough’s burial expenses.

The crash happened at around 9:30 a.m. outside NYBG’s Mosholu Gate. Police said Owens drove out of the botanical garden and made a left turn onto Southern Boulevard, striking Lough with the front bumper of the truck on the passenger side. An anonymous tipster told Streetsblog witnesses saw Owens “on his phone” at the time of the collision.

NYPD said Lough was leaving the Metro-North Botanical Garden Station, across the street from the NYBG, when she was struck. It’s not clear if Lough was biking or walking (the tipster said Lough was seen walking her bike), but in either case, she would have had the right of way.

Lough was taken to Jacobi Hospital with head and body trauma. She died on Monday.

Police charged Owens, who lives in Manhattan, with reckless driving. He was also charged under the city’s Right of Way Law. Both offenses are unclassified misdemeanors. The NYPD public information office said the department’s Collision Investigation Squad is still investigating the crash.

A second source who works at NYBG and asked to remain anonymous said the intersection is “very dangerous” and drivers “regularly speed through the light.”

“She was wearing her helmet, followed the signs, and did everything right,” Lough’s memorial page reads. “However, the driver was not paying attention, and ran over her.”

It’s unknown who owns the truck Owens was driving. A botanical garden representative told Streetsblog Owens does not work there.

Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro credited NYPD and District Attorney Darcel Clark for pursuing charges in this case. “There is a critical role that NYPD in partnership with the DAs have to play in holding reckless drivers accountable,” Samponaro said, “and in doing so sending a strong message that reckless driving is not acceptable on New York City streets.”

New York City motorists fatally struck at least three cyclists in April. Two of the victims were killed in Brooklyn. Though available information suggests both Brooklyn victims were following traffic laws when they were hit, NYPD and District Attorney Ken Thompson filed no criminal charges in either of those cases.

Owens is next scheduled to appear in court in June. We will follow this case as it develops.

  • mattkime

    I’m curious why this guy gets charged when so many others walk.

  • urbanresidue

    The entire area around the Botanical Garden is a pedestrian nightmare, and unfortunately, the institution has shown no interest in improving safety. The new entrance at Bedford Park Boulevard is a convenient location, but the intersection is terrifying!

  • Vooch

    They did build a massive Parking structure across the street from the NYBG.

    And you can Drive into the NYBG Entry grounds, but the Guard Freaks Out If your bring a Bike. he’ll point to some lonely bike racks 200 feet Outside the gates and insist your Store your bike There, Meanwhile a Few hundred death machines are Stored inside gate.

  • Yeah, that intersection is absolutely terrible.

    A protected bike lane along Southern Blvd. linking the NYBG and the Bronx Zoo with the Mosholu-Pelham Greenway would be amazing.


  • Reader

    “But the parking! Think of the parking.” – DOT, probably.

  • AnoNYC

    Northbound Southern Blvd is like 3 lanes wide from Fordham Road to a bit north of Bedford Park Blvd because of the no standing zones. I would extend the eastern sidewalk and add a protected bike lane. Definitely enough room. You wouldn’t even lose any automotive moving lanes, though it should be reduced to two. Maybe paint a bus lane.

  • SSkate

    I’d be in favor of that bikelane that Bike Snob suggests. I got a little lost trying to find the existing bikelane in this area last year and the traffic along Southern/Kazimiroff was frightening.

  • com63

    There is probably a camera that very clearly shows what happened. Maybe they corroborated this with cell phone records. Don’t worry, the DA will probably let him pay a $200 fine and get a license suspension rather than going to trial.

  • Bronx Park is only home to two of New York City’s most internationally famous outdoor destinations. Why should it be easy to ride or walk near it?

  • walks bikes drives

    The Garden actually encourages cycling to get there and they have a number of racks just inside the main gate that are free. At some points, they have discounts on admission as well if you arrive by bike. I would definitely not say the board is against active transportation.

  • Vooch

    that Is good to hear, but the last Time My Wife and I went we were treated so poorly by the guard Like we were some sort of pariahs, that we decided to ride Home and vowed never to return.

  • BxCyclist

    It happened just before 9am, not 9:30. Many Garden staff take Metro-North to work and were on the same train with Heather and walking toward the gate when the collision occurred. So there were many eyewitnesses who gave the police a clear account of what happened (so they weren’t left to make their own conjectures and inevitably blame the cyclist like they always do). Also the Garden was in close contact with the family and the police in the days after and no doubt having such a prominent city institution on the cyclist’s side played a role in charges being filed.

  • urbanresidue

    I wouldn’t say either the Garden nor the Zoo are “against” active transportation. They just dedicate all their resources and attention into driving instead. From time to time, they may make some low-cost gesture toward active transportation that sounds good to somebody who drives everywhere, yet the fact remains they continue to spend good money on bad, sometimes dangerous design.

  • urbanresidue
  • Paul Schimek

    Why no negligent homicide charge?

  • Last time we rode bikes there we used the bike rack at the Mosholu gate. When we left, due to the way my heavy cargo bike was facing, I had to make a u-turn in the parking lot in order to exit the gate. The guard freaked out, like I might try to ride into the gardens and tear up the azaleas with my cargo bike.

    I imagine this has nothing to do with NYBG policy and is just guards being guards, plus so few people riding there the security isn’t accustomed to dealing with it.


  • Arya Stark

    I went there in the winter, and had to walk in the street (near the MetroNorth station) because NYBG hadn’t shoveled the sidewalks. They had shoveled around the bus stop, but not so that you could walk on the sidewalks from the parking garage and the train station to a NYBG gate that was open!

  • Arya Stark

    I was impossible to get from the parking garage to the NYBG for me last winter without walking in the dangerous section of street near the gate. The NYBG doesn’t clear their sidewalks! They only shoveled from the gate to the bus stop, and didn’t bother with the rest of the sidewalk. >:-[


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