A longtime Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus driver was arrested on Tuesday after his bus hit a 70-year-old woman who was crossing the street in Brooklyn, killing her just a block from the shelter where she lived, the authorities said.
After the bus struck the woman, the driver continued on to a nearby depot, and by the time investigators determined through surveillance video which bus was involved in the crash, a second driver had picked it up from the depot and begun a new route, an authority spokeswoman, Amanda Kwan, said.
The driver, Paul Roper, 48, who has been a city bus driver for 15 years, was charged with leaving the scene of an accident, a felony; failure to yield to a pedestrian, a misdemeanor; and failure to exercise due care, a traffic violation. The authority suspended him without pay.
The woman, Carol Bell, was walking north on Sackman Street and trying to cross Fulton Street in the Broadway Junction section of Brooklyn around 6:15 a.m. when a southbound bus turned left onto Fulton, the police said.
She had just waved hello to a grocery store owner, as she did almost every morning on her way from the Magnolia House Women’s Shelter to a methadone treatment program. Ms. Bell had been homeless off and on since the mid-1990s, her daughter said.
Surveillance video published by NBC New York showed her waiting cautiously on the side of the street for cars to pass, and then moving across the street with the aid of her walker. There was no painted crosswalk at the intersection, but the charges indicate Ms. Bell still had the right of way.
The bus stopped briefly after hitting her, and then drove off to the East New York Depot, several blocks away, near the intersection of Jamaica Avenue and Broadway, the police said. The bus, which was not in service, had been returning to the depot from the B15 bus route at the time of the crash, Ms. Kwan said.
Photos from the scene showed a crumpled walker lying in the street.
The authorities initially could not find Mr. Roper on Tuesday morning. Ms. Kwan said the bus was towed back to the depot after its rooftop number was seen on surveillance video and investigators pulled it over along the B15 route, with a fresh driver at its wheel.
The crash, coming several days after three trick-or-treaters were killed by a car that jumped a curb in the Bronx, drew renewed promises from Mayor Bill de Blasio about the city’s commitment to its Vision Zero plan to end traffic deaths. Residents who live near the scene of Tuesday’s crash said speeding buses are a constant problem.
One of the charges Mr. Roper faces — failure to yield — was at the center of a clash this year between the mayor and the city’s major bus drivers’ union. A new traffic-safety law made failing to yield a misdemeanor in some cases, and enforcement of the law had prompted protests by drivers. But on Tuesday, the union, Transport Workers Union Local 100, was restrained in its response to the charges against Mr. Roper, saying only that the crash was a “terrible tragedy.”
Mr. de Blasio told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that the Vision Zero initiative had already helped to reduce fatalities.
“We’re very committed to it, and every time we lose someone, we say, you know, this is something that we need to keep reiterating to people — the care they need to take with driving, and why all these standards matter, why that lower speed limit matters,” Mr. de Blasio said.
In 1998, Ms. Bell’s daughter, Lisa Bell, got an apartment, where she lived with her mother until she lost the lease around 2007.
“She was a very caring person; she never let me go hungry. She had a heart of gold,” Lisa Bell, 51, said, adding, “We had a rough life.”
A man who identified himself as Mr. Roper’s brother said he spoke briefly with him on Tuesday. “He didn’t see nothing,” said the brother, who declined to give his name.
Lisa Bell said she was not upset at the bus driver, but wanted him to understand how she felt.
“I know it wasn’t intentional,” she said. “It was an accident he didn’t stop. He was scared. It happens every day. But I need him to know he took my mom’s life, and that’s my best friend.”
Article Originally Posted By The New York Times