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Reckless SUV Driver Kills Another Child on a Sidewalk in Far Rockaway

The scene of the crash. Photo: Google

An SUV driver slammed into a 10-year-girl on the sidewalk in Queens after losing control of the truck as she pulled out of a grocery store parking lot, killing the girl and injuring another woman on Wednesday, police said.

According to a preliminary report by police and subsequent reporting from the Daily News, the 33-year-old woman driver of the Mazda CX9 SUV was exiting a parking lot onto Beach Channel Drive at around 4:15 p.m. when she drove onto the sidewalk and hit 10-year-old Davina Afokoba and a 33-year-old woman with her car. Davina was pinned against a building by the SUV and died at the scene.

Witnesses told the Daily News that the driver was attempting to make a left turn from the parking lot of a Shop Fair Supermarket onto Beach Channel, but sped her car directly across the street and onto the sidewalk, possibly in an attempt to beat traffic on the block. The driver plowed her SUV into a car wash across the street from the supermarket. Davina, who lived on nearby Pinson Street, was reportedly walking home from school with her teenage brother when she was killed. The 33-year-old woman was taken to Jamaica Hospital in stable condition.

The News also reported that the car had a paper license plate, and a bumper sticker on the back that said, "New driver please be patient." The use of paper license plates, which are sometimes fakes but also sometimes temporary plates given out by car dealers, has exploded during the pandemic and has been connected to shooting incidents, toll evasion, and evading red light or speed cameras. The Sheriff's office has occasionally cracked down and seized cars with the fake plates, but the issue persists even two years after the pandemic began.

No arrest has been made in the crash yet, and police say the investigation is ongoing.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, whose former Council district included the crash site, said the crash was yet another wake-up call — one the city failed to hear after the death of 3-month-old Apolline Mong-Guillemin in Brooklyn and 2-year-old Autumn Garrison on a Staten Island sidewalk last year. Garrison's death highlighted the need to change parking lot exits that allow drivers to drive on sidewalks.

"It is gut-wrenching to see a child lose her life at such a young age, with such a bright future ahead of her,” said Richards. "The deepest condolences of our entire borough go to Davina’s family and friends during this unimaginably difficult time. There is nothing more imperative than street safety, let us double down on our efforts to prevent another horrific tragedy like this from striking another community."

Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers, who currently represents the district and chairs the Council's Transportation Committee, said her "heart sank" when she heard about the crash, adding that she is keeping Davina's "completely devastated" family "in my thoughts and prayers."

She added that this year's "senseless deaths are the result of years of underinvestment and neglect of our public space" — and vowed to take action, albeit with help.

"I am looking forward to working with Mayor Adams’ administration to address transportation inequities and ensure safer streets for our families and communities," she said.

Davina is at least the 14th pedestrian to be killed in what already has been a bloody year on city streets. Through Feb. 9, 26 people have been killed in crashes according to the DOT, an 85-percent increase over the same time period in 2021, which ended up being the bloodiest year for road violence during the entire eight-year de Blasio administration. Victims have included Jack Mikulincer, a 99-year-old Holocaust survivor killed by a driver who routinely picked up speeding tickets, a 64-year-old woman killed when a driver plowed her SUV into her as she tried to cross the street, and 51-year-old Undeshi Sundeep and 43-year-old Beatriz Diaz, who were both killed in separate crashes in Manhattan crosswalks.

The higher rate of traffic deaths also comes on the heels of the deadliest year on city streets since Vision Zero was implemented. In 2021, 273 people died in crashes, and 42 percent more pedestrians were killed by SUVs compared to the number killed by SUVs during Mayor de Blasio's first year in office.

Wednesday's fatal crash was not the only traffic carnage that involved a child. In Midwood, the driver of a BMW plowed into a 5-year-old child in front of 1442 E. 12th Street just before 3 p.m., sending the boy to Maimonides Hospital in critical condition.

In response to the crashes, street safety advocates urged city leader to get moving on their commitments to actually building safe streets.

"Our children deserve to cross the street without fear, and to walk on the sidewalk without worry," said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris. "We must implement proven solutions that will slow drivers down and make our roads safe."

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