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Car Kills a Man in Queens Even When No One is Driving

7:23 AM EST on December 11, 2019

File photo: Dave Colon

Michael Kasanovich
Michael Kosanovich

Updated | A New Jersey man was crushed by a Lexus car that rolled over him after its owner started it with a remote control system, police said on Wednesday.

According to preliminary information from police, Michael Kosanovich, 21, was standing between two parked 2002 Lexus IS300s on 148th Street in South Jamaica at around 10 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6 when the operator of one of the luxury cars started it "by remote."

The car then rolled forward, pinning Kosanovich between itself and the other Lexus directly in front of it. Bystanders pushed the car back, but it lurched forward again, causing severe trauma to Kosanovich's legs and torso, cops said.

He was taken to Jamaica Medical Center, where he died the next day.

The remote-controlled engine ignition system was an after-market addition to the car, as it was not offered as a feature by Lexus in 2002, a spokesperson for the company told Streetsblog after initial publication of this story.

"Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family and friends of Michael Kosanovich," Toyota North America said in a statement to Streetsblog. "Although many details are unknown at this time, we will work in close cooperation with law enforcement agencies in their investigation upon request."

An NYPD spokesman said that Kosanovich was inspecting one of the cars as part of a possible purchase. Police also said the investigation is ongoing and that police know the identity of the Lexus driver who started the car that pinned Kosanovich — though that driver was not initially charged even though a charge of failure to exercise due care could certainly apply.

The owner's manual for Lexus remote control starter system cautions operators about the potential hazards of using such a system. "Laws in some communities require that the vehicle be within view of anyone using the REMOTE ENGINE STARTER," it states. "NEVER remotely start the engine if you are unaware of the circumstances surrounding the vehicle as it may cause a life-threatening situation for those located in the vehicle’s vicinity."

The remote controlled system is not supposed to work unless the vehicle is equipped with automatic transmission and is left in "park," so it is unclear why the car rolled forward after its engine was engaged. Police declined to provide information about that.

Keyless ignition systems have been implicated in several carbon-monoxide-related deaths when owners did not realize that their cars were still on.

"Weaned from the habit of turning and removing a key to shut off the motor, drivers — particularly older ones — can be lulled by newer, quieter engines into mistakenly thinking that it has stopped running," the Times reported in 2017.

Earlier this year, Car and Driver was decidedly concerned about keyless systems.

"As cars become more appliancelike and consumers become less and less engaged with how cars work, the risk of problems like this only becomes more likely," the magazine wrote. "It's a reminder that the most important safety feature in a car, as always, is you."

A funeral home obituary said Kosanovich is "survived by his mother Joyce Kosanovich; his brother Aidan Friedman; his grandparents Joyce and Ken Elyea; his girlfriend Melanie Perez; and many aunts, uncles and cousins."

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