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Astoria Cyclist Xellea Samonte Killed by Motorist, Slandered by NYPD

12:52 PM EDT on July 27, 2018

35th Street at 23rd Avenue in Astoria. Image: Google Maps

The cyclist hit by a motorist in Astoria on Tuesday has died, the NYPD said Friday.

Xellea Samonte was in the bike lane on 35th Street when the driver hit her with the “front passenger side” of his van as she crossed under elevated train tracks at 23rd Avenue at around 12:20 a.m., an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog. She died later in the day.

Samonte, 23, lived in Astoria. The driver, identified only as a 28-year-old man, was neither charged nor ticketed.

Outlets including the Daily News and the Astoria Post repeated the 114th Precinct's claims that Samonte caused the crash by running a red light. But an NYPD spokesperson could not say why investigators concluded Samonte was at fault.

NYPD routinely relies on driver testimony in cases where crash victims are no longer alive to tell their side of the story. But motorist accounts are often found to be false when more evidence comes to light — not that NYPD has changed the department's practice, which further traumatizes victims' families.

NYPD has now blamed deceased cyclists for running red lights at least seven times in the last 16 months, according to crash data tracked by Streetsblog. Police have produced corroborative evidence in none of those cases.

Not counting this week's crash, 10 people have been injured in collisions at 35th Street and 23rd Avenue since 2009, according to City Hall. In 2016, a motorist killed 88-year-old pedestrian Savas Maounis in the crosswalk at 23rd Avenue and 33rd Street, one block away. The driver who hit Maounis was arrested and charged with a Right of Way Law violation.

Safe streets advocates are currently calling out deadly Astoria street conditions and NYPD victim-blaming on Twitter.

The area where Samonte was killed is represented in the City Council by Costa Constantinides.

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