There are no criminal charges against the truck driver who killed 6-year-old Amar Diarrassouba as he walked to school yesterday morning in Harlem, but it appears the school crossing guard will be shouldering most of the blame. Flavia Roman, 55, took a five minute break to use the bathroom yesterday morning, and during her absence tragedy struck. The NYPD announced that Roman has been suspended for "failure to be on post" and the DA is reportedly considering criminal charges.
The tractor trailer driver, 42-year-old Robert Carroll Jr., was issued summonses for failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care. These aren't criminal charges, but he could face 15 days in prison and fines. Carroll Jr. was driving the truck on East 117th Street, a narrow one-way street that is not a truck route. Streetsblog reports that trucks "exceeding 55 feet in length, like the one involved in this crash, are not allowed on surface streets without a permit." The DOT and McLane trucking, which owns the truck, have not responded to requests for comment on whether the truck was appropriately permitted.
(Eileen Lehpamer / 1010 WINS)
Witness say Carroll ran over Diarrassouba as he turned right onto First Avenue, and that he apparently did not realize he had hit the child. But bystanders ran after the truck and managed to flag it down. Chris Roberts, a passenger in the truck, tells CBS 2, "He was like hysterical. He said, ‘You know a kid got hurt back there,’ so we pulled the truck over and got out. We didn’t realize anything had happened.”
Diarrassouba's 9-year-old brother was with him at the time of the crash. One witness tells DNAinfo, "The brother was standing on the sidewalk crying and crying. He had just seen his brother get socked by a truck. The whole thing was terrible. It was tough to watch. The boy was bleeding out of his head, bleeding like crazy."
Crossing guards, who start at an hourly pay of $9.88, are permitted short breaks for personal necessities, but the Wall Street Journal reports that they're required to "mark the times they leave and return in a memo book." An official tells the Journal that Roman signed into her post at 7:30 a.m. "but failed to log her break or inform a supervisor."
One parent of a student at PS 155, located a block from the crash, tells the Post, "I would never see her [working]. Whenever someone’s crossing, she’s talking to other people. She’s a person who didn’t do her job well. Instead of walking children across the road, she’s distracted and talking to people.” And a student at the school tells the tabloid, "She was always talking on the telephone."
Amar's parents, however, are not blaming Roman. “She loved that boy,” Sidiki Diarrassouba, the father, told the Daily News yesterday. “Something happened, I don’t want to blame her.” Roman’s granddaughter Karina Matias, blamed the trucker. "How do you get a ticket for hitting a child and my grandmother’s still being questioned by the police?” she asked the Post. "It’s the driver’s fault; you have to look both ways. How do you miss [seeing] a child? They shouldn’t blame my grandmother. She takes the job seriously.”
In 2011, Governor Cuomo signed a law requiring mirrors on the front end of big trucks. The law was passed in direct response to fatalities involving children and truck drivers, but Streetsblog reports that "a loophole lets companies that do business in the city but are based elsewhere forego the mirror mandate." The truck involved in yesterday's crash did not have the mirrors; the company that owns it is based in Texas.
An NYPD spokesman at the scene defended the driver, telling DNAinfo, "Tractor trailers often have to make very wide turns. It's possible, given the height of the vehicle and the kind of turn he had to make, that he just didn't see the kid." As the NYPD says, that's why they call it an accident.