Five Killed in Four Days: Holiday Season Marked by Pedestrian Deaths

Maria Beria, Aileen Martinez, Sheena Mathew, Ronald Sinvil, Miguel Torres

In separate crashes in Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx, city motorists killed five pedestrians between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Four of the crashes, which took the lives of a child and three young mothers, were hit-and-runs.

At approximately 8:45 a.m. on December 28, 11-year-old Miguel Torres of Jackson Heights was crossing at Northern Boulevard and 80th Street, in the crosswalk and with the light, when he was hit by the driver of a dump truck.

Miguel was on his way to participate in a school field trip to Grand Central Terminal when he was killed. Olga Gonzalez, who witnessed the aftermath of the crash, told the Post: “It was so bad, when the ambulance guy came, he was crying … The car hit [Miguel] so hard his shoes came off. I just saw a little kid in the middle of the street, and I just started crying.”

The driver, who did not stop, was later located by police. To the dismay of Miguel’s grieving family, no criminal charges were filed. From DNAinfo:

“They’re just giving him summonses,” [Miguel’s aunt Yolanda] Ardezzone said. “I think he should get more than summonses — jail time, so this won’t happen to another child.”

A spokeswoman for the NYPD said that although the police originally stated the child was involved in a hit-and-run, police were actually able to track down the driver at the scene.

“It appeared the driver was unaware they struck someone,” said the spokeswoman. No criminal charges had been filed by Sunday, but she said the case was still under investigation.

In New York State, a driver must know or have reason to know that he or she has caused injury in order to be charged for leaving the scene of a fatal crash. Even when police and prosecutors muster the will to bring charges — no sure thing by any means — an admission that the motorist “didn’t see” the victim serves as a reliable defense. From the Daily News:

A few hours after the incident, police found the driver of the 1988 truck in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He told police he didn’t know he had hit someone, tested negative for alcohol and had a valid driver’s license. Police said no criminal charges will be filed.

No charges, though according to the same Daily News story: “A police source said the truck’s rear wheels struck the boy, though a second source said the boy may have first been struck from the front end of the truck.”

If Queens District Attorney Richard Brown does indeed pursue a criminal case against Miguel Torres’s killer, it is a virtual lock that leaving the scene would be the top charge. Minus evidence of intoxication, a city motorist who kills a pedestrian or cyclist is practically guaranteed to escape charges for taking a life.

A memorial for Miguel Torres, killed in Jackson Heights by a hit-and-run driver who was not criminally charged by NYPD or Queens DA Richard Brown. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

On December 29 at around 6 a.m., Amanda Garcia was hit by the driver of a Nissan Altima on Westchester Avenue near Olmstead Avenue in Parkchester, according to the Daily News. The impact severely damaged the car, rupturing the gas tank, but the driver kept going. Garcia, of Pleasantville, was the mother of a three-month-old boy. She was thrown into a parked minivan with such force that it looks as if the vehicle was rear-ended by another motorist.

Three pedestrians were killed by motorists on December 26. Sheena Mathew, a nurse and mother of two daughters, was struck by a hit-and-run driver on Hillside Avenue at Little Neck Parkway in Floral Park. The crash occurred at approximately 5:57 p.m., after Mathew, 38, left a pharmacy where she had picked up medicine for her husband, a city traffic agent. Mathew’s kids are 10 and 11 years old. Loved ones at a heartbreaking vigil called on her killer to come forward. From the Daily News:

“She came here for a better life from the Middle East,” said Ivy Sakaria, 37, whose eldest child attended Public School 18 with one of Mathew’s kids. “She was very dedicated to her children … it was shocking news for us.”

Less than an hour after Mathew was struck, Maria Beria was walking to her car on 111th Avenue near 147th Street in Jamaica when she was hit by a driver who never slowed down. “She left three beautiful children behind,” said Beria’s sister Wanda Barclay, to the Daily News. “She was just crossing the street and this crazy guy took her life away. He just kept going he didn’t care.”

At around 8:25 p.m., 33-year-old Aileen Martinez was run over by the driver of an MTA express bus in Manhattan. Martinez was on her way home from work, to her dog Ricky, when the bus driver struck her while making a left turn from 59th Street onto Seventh Avenue. She was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital. Less than three hours after the crash NYPD had issued its standard “no criminality suspected” statement to the press. A Daily News report that Martinez was hit by a yellow cab driver before she was struck by the bus was brushed off by police.

Martinez was a native of the Dominican Republic, and her mother in that country was stunned by news of the death.

“She’s in very bad shape. She kept saying it’s her only daughter. She’s devastated,” said Jose Perez, a friend of Martinez. He added that every month, Martinez sent $200 to her mom.

In another fatal crash, according to a flippant, pun-heavy account from the Post, in the early morning hours of December 15, Ronald Sinvil “fell into” a moving city sanitation street sweeper on Flatbush Avenue outside Barclays Center. The 36-year-old father was pronounced dead at Kings County Hospital. No charges were filed.

Streetsblog will follow developments for each of these crashes. Ronald Sinvil, Aileen Martinez, Maria Beria, Sheena Mathew, Amanda Garcia and Miguel Torres will be added to the victims named in our 2012 memoriam post.