UPDATE: Bus Driver Arrested for Killing Girl; Mayor Sends ‘Thoughts and Prayers’

The scene of the crash in East New York. Photo: Google
The scene of the crash in East New York. Photo: Google

A yellow bus driver ran over and killed a 10-year-old girl on her way to school in East New York on Tuesday morning, knocking her over as she used a crosswalk, police said. He was later arrested.

Initially, cops did not release anything but preliminary information about the 6:45 a.m. crash: The yellow school bus was traveling north on Crescent Street, which has a stop sign at Wortman Avenue. But when the 61-year-old bus driver turned right onto Wortman, he hit the girl in the crosswalk, cops said. She was taken to Brookdale Hospital, where she died. The driver remained on the scene and was not immediately charged.

In the afternoon, the NYPD said driver Pedro Colon had been charged with two counts of failure to yield and two counts of failure to exercise due care — double counts because in addition to fatally wounding Patience Albert, Colon also hit her 15-year-old brother, Gothamist reported.

The three blocks of Crescent Street between Cozine Avenue and Linden Boulevard itself are not among the most dangerous roadways in the city — with 22 crashes, injuring four pedestrians last year. But East New York is one of the most dangerous places to be a pedestrian or a cyclist. Last year alone, there were 4,443 crashes in the neighborhood, injuring 63 bike riders, 208 walkers and 1,409 motorists. One cyclist, three pedestrians and two car drivers were killed, according to city statistics.

After initial publication of this story, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza put out the following statement: “This is devastating, and my heart goes out to the family and school community. We are providing all support necessary during this difficult time. The driver has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.”

Carranza will visit the school, believed to be P.S. 224, to offer condolences.

The Department of Education declined to identify the bus company for whom the driver worked, but said in a statement, “All bus drivers undergo a rigorous background check in order to be eligible to serve New York City students, which includes fingerprinting and criminal history.”

Carranza has told Streetsblog that he and the mayor have never discussed closing streets around schools to cars and trucks so that kids can get to school safely. The mayor, who could ban cars from hundreds of streets and designate school zones as safe places for children, tweeted his thoughts and prayers. He claimed his administration “won’t rest the streets around every single school are safe for our kids.”

This from the same mayor who last month said that he won’t bar cars from school blocks because some parents “need” to drive.

The mayor’s tweet earned him substantial opprobium on Twitter:

Transportation Alternatives issued a statement reminding the public that Albert is at least the 20th pedestrian killed by a driver so far this year, and the fourth pedestrian killed in the last 48 hours.

“This crash could have been prevented,” the group said. “At present, New York City has built and continues to invest in a transportation system that prioritizes moving traffic instead of protecting human life. This crash is not simply a failure of judgment on the part of the driver; it is a failure of leadership on the part of elected officials who accept tragedies like these as the price we pay for mobility. As we have seen in Helsinki and Oslo — both saw zero pedestrian or cyclist fatalities in 2019 — Vision Zero is possible with the political will to make it happen.

“Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for children in New York City and around the world,” the statement continued. “We know what it takes to prevent these deaths, but our leaders have slow-rolled the cure. Mayor de Blasio says he wants to save our city, but he will fail if he is unable to protect the most vulnerable among us. Mr. Mayor, please: save our children.”

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG