Turning Driver Kills 89-Year-Old on Upper East Side, NYPD Blames Victim

A driver makes a left turn into the crosswalk at E. 61st Street and First Avenue, where John Torson was fatally struck Thursday. NYPD said the 89-year-old victim was "outside the crosswalk" when he was hit. Image: Google Maps
A driver makes a left turn into the crosswalk at E. 61st Street and First Avenue, where John Torson was fatally struck Thursday. NYPD said the 89-year-old victim was “outside the crosswalk” when he was hit. Image: Google Maps

For the second time in a week, a turning driver has killed a senior on the Upper East Side. Police blamed the victim in the press.

John Torson, 89, was crossing E. 61st Street north to south at around 7:19 p.m. Thursday when a 56-year-old woman drove a Lexus SUV into him while turning left from First Avenue, according to NYPD and published reports. Torson, who lived on E. 63rd Street, was declared dead on arrival at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, police said.

The crash occurred in the 19th Precinct, where a cab driver fatally struck 76-year-old tourist Amelia Sterental on May 9. As of March, 19th Precinct officers had issued just 10 speeding tickets in 2015.

From the Post:

The driver, who remained at the scene, said Thorson “just hobbled into the middle of the street.”

“I did my best to put on the brake, but he ran into my car,” said the shaken driver, who did not want to give her name. “I feel bad for him. I hope he’s okay. But I’m so worried.”

An NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog that, according to the Collision Investigation Squad, Torson was “outside of the marked crosswalk” when he was struck. Anonymous police sources told the Post Torson “was not in the crosswalk,” and the Daily News reported that, according to unnamed sources, the victim was “a few car-lengths west of the crosswalk.” A photo of the scene published by the Post shows the SUV sitting on 61st Street, the rear tires a few feet from the crosswalk, indicating Torson probably would not have been far from the corner.

After the Right of Way Law made it a misdemeanor for drivers to harm pedestrians who are walking with the right of way, NYPD began blaming deceased victims in the press by saying they were “outside the crosswalk” when they were hit.

While the CIS description of the crash blamed the 89-year-old victim for walking outside the lines, NYPD had no information on driver speed, or who had the right of way. There is a left turn lane and a separate signal for drivers turning left from First Avenue onto E. 61st Street, but it’s not clear if there is an exclusive turn phase.

NYPD said CIS is still investigating the crash, though the Daily News reported the driver, whose name was not released, “was not charged and cops did not suspect any criminality.”

New York City drivers have killed at least four seniors in the last week — two in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn, and one in Queens. No charges were filed in any of those crashes by NYPD or district attorneys Cy Vance, Ken Thompson, and Richard Brown.

John Torson was killed in Community Board District 8, and in the City Council district represented by Ben Kallos, who supports a bill that would exempt MTA bus drivers from criminal penalties for striking pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way.