Witness to Xellea Samonte Crash Contradicts NYPD Victim-Blaming But Cops Ignored Him

Tim Clarke cast doubt on the police claim that Samonte biked through a "steady red light" before a driver struck and killed her.

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

Police who investigated the crash death of Astoria cyclist Xellea Samonte last week declined to take an account from a witness who would have disputed the NYPD narrative that she caused the collision by running a red light.

Cyclist Tim Clarke told Streetsblog that he was about 20 to 30 feet behind Samonte on 35th Street nearing the intersection with 23rd Avenue, where the fatal collision occurred early on July 24. He said he saw Samonte enter the intersection as her light turned yellow, yet before she was through the intersection, the van driver hit her at a speed so fast that he must have ran through his red light.

“As she reached the intersection I noticed the light change to yellow,” Clarke said. “Looking ahead, I saw the van traveling very fast and hitting her.”

Clarke said Samonte was thrown at least 20 feet and landed on the sidewalk. Video of the scene shows the van with damage to the passenger side fender and the right side of the windshield, indicating the victim was propelled over the hood and the van was traveling rapidly.

Clarke’s account is counter to how the NYPD described the collision in the press, saying Samonte “rode through a steady red light.” An NYPD spokesperson could not say how investigators determined Samonte was at fault, but the agency typically relies solely on driver testimony when crash victims can’t speak for themselves, though motorist accounts are frequently shown to be false when more evidence is revealed.

Indeed, Clarke said that police declined to take down his statement, even though he saw the collision.

“I stayed in the road as people were gathered around her,” Clarke told Streetsblog. “I stayed till she was loaded into the ambulance to answer questions if asked.”

“(Police) asked if I’d seen it, and I said, ‘Yes,'” added Clarke. “Then they weren’t interested.”

The driver, identified only as a 28-year-old man, was not charged or ticketed. It’s unlikely the public will know how the investigation was handled anytime soon — if ever — since NYPD as a rule conceals crash reports, sometimes in perpetuity.

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

In addition to Samonte, 10 people have been injured in crashes at 35th Street and 23rd Avenue since 2009, according to City Hall. In 2016, a motorist killed pedestrian Savas Maounis, 88, in the crosswalk at 23rd Avenue and 33rd Street, one block away.

Costa Constantinides, who represents the area in the City Council, has asked DOT to study and implement street improvements near where Samonte was struck.

  • harry smith

    It can’t be coincidence, nor can it be explained by police laziness. What we’re seeing is an organised effort from NYPD to lie about road fatalities to blame the victim. It’s getting so that whatever the NYPD say at the scene can automatically be discounted.

  • As I wrote last year, “…the NYPD sees New Yorkers who bike as somehow inviting injury or even death for daring to share the roads with drivers.”

    Pity we don’t have a mayor who can fix this problem.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/bicyclist-deaths-police-response-article-1.3248055

  • Larry Littlefield

    “He said he saw Samonte enter the intersection as her light turned yellow.”

    If it’s a one way street, a police officer standing on the other side of the intersection would have seen the walk signal turn red at the same time, and given her a ticket. Take it from me.

    And remember, you have a double red for a moment to prevent someone jumping the light turning green from crashing into another motor vehicle entering the intersection just before the light turns red. Not long enough for a slow moving cyclist to get across, but something.

    So you can’t just get ticketed for running a yellow light. You can get killed.

  • Joe R.

    It depends on your speed. I enter intersections all the time when the light is yellow. However, when I do that, I typically increased my speed to something like 25 mph so I could avoid hitting a red light in the first place. I’m easily through the intersection before cross traffic gets a green. I also look if any vehicles are jumping the light while I’m going through.

  • i second harry’s comment, and want to add: running a yellow on a bike in the boroughs is an incredibly dangerous choice to make. i would add it to riding in the door zone for self-endangering choices many of us make as cyclists that we have to be more aware of. the boroughs, far more than manhattan, allow for drivers to try to “time the light” at significant rates of speed, and because of that every yellow is a good chance to have a near miss, or as in the case of ms. samonte, far worse.

    i am not “blaming the victim” here–the driver should go to jail for 10 years, no questions asked–but i am saying that we have to look out for the obvious dangers, and speak directly to them, even in times as trying as these.

    peace to you, xellea.

  • William Lawson

    If I was an NYPD cop with a Tinder account, I’d probably put “horse shit shoveler” or “sewage pipe technician” for a profession in my profile. Can you imagine the shame of working for what must surely be one of the most incompetent, corrupt, pointless police departments in the Western Hemisphere.

  • Ian Turner

    Police fetish is definitely a thing. I doubt these folks are hiding their profession.

    https://www.datingadvice.com/online-dating/cop-dating-sites

  • William Lawson

    Well yeah and then you have the dumbos who fire up romances with serial killers on death row. Similar kind of thing.

  • com63

    Other driver still at fault, even if the light turned red while she was still in the intersection. When a light turns green, you must wait for cross traffic and turning traffic to clear the intersection before proceeding.

    The law doesn’t help this poor woman though.

  • David Chambers

    I was in the car at the red light. Me and my Uber driver saw it with our own two eyes. I hate to say it but she ran the red light when she cycled right passed our stopped car and into the intersection . We we’re the very first on scene.

  • 8FH

    Did you upvote your own post? How?

  • Cain McDougal

    You can click on your own upvote.

  • David Chambers

    that’s what you take away from my post ?….

  • Re Ed

    Are you a cop, David Chambers?

  • David Chambers

    No I work for my dad’s construction company. I saw the entire accident with m own two eyes. I don’t like cops at all. I’m just telling how I saw it. I feel so bad for the girl . I used to ride a bike everyday . I’m 26 and lucky to be alive .

  • Re Ed

    It’s not about the oblivious girl. It’s about the reckless driver who killed her.

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